Tom Mooney Journal Staff Writer Mooneyprojo

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s transforming medical marijuana industry is facing a critical juncture, say stakeholders, as lawmakers weigh several expansion proposals and regulatory changes.

 Some of the state’s two dozen newly licensed medical marijuana cultivators — who have invested fortunes into securing buildings and growing equipment — say they’re worried they’ll have no market to sell to unless lawmakers approve Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to raise the number of state-licensed dispensaries from 3 to 15.

 Raimondo is also banking on the dispensary expansion. Though the 12 proposed dispensaries wouldn’t grow marijuana (as does the three existing ones) all could open their doors for the first time to medical marijuana patients from Connecticut and Massachusetts.

 With thousands of new out-of-state customers, coupled with Rhode Island’s more than 19,000 medical marijuana patients and a provision to now include “acute pain” as an accepted condition for medicinal cannabis, Raimondo has projected some $5.1 million in additional state revenue.

 Then there are the medical marijuana patients themselves. Since last year, they’ve seen the state ban small private grows from selling product to the dispensaries, in favor of regulated cultivators. Now there’s a proposal to reduce how many home plants those patients or caregivers can grow, from 24 to 16, per person.

 “There is a fear as to where all this is heading,” says JoAnne Leppanen of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. “Why do they keep tightening it up when the rest of the world is going the other way” toward approving recreational marijuana.

The Senate Finance Committee held the first General Assembly hearing on the new medical pot proposals two weeks ago. The House Finance Committee is scheduled to hear more testimony Tuesday afternoon.

 Regulators say the proposed expansion and changes are part of the state’s goal

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