Rhode Island’s pot shops saw brisk business during their first week of operation under a new state law allowing retail sales, according to a state agency.

Rhode Island pot sales top $1.6 million in first week

(The Center Square) – Rhode Island’s pot shops saw brisk business during their first week of operation under a new state law allowing retail sales, according to a state agency.

The state’s six licensed cannabis dispensaries collectively sold more than $1.63 million worth of marijuana from Dec. 1 to Dec. 7, the Department of Business Regulation said. About half of those sales were for recreational cannabis, or an estimated $786,000. The remaining $845,400 were sales to medical marijuana patients, the agency said.

The robust sales bode well for the state, which will rope in roughly $133,600 in taxes, about $23,500 which will go to towns and cities where the pot shops are located.

By comparison, medical cannabis sales, which are subject only to the state’s 7% sales tax, will bring in $59,000 for the state during that same period.

The Rhode Island Office of Management and Budget is projecting $5.9 million in cannabis tax revenue in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. But state cannabis regulators say the revenues will initially be spent almost entirely on administering the new program, including hiring about two dozen new state employees to oversee regulations.

The tax revenue is expected to increase in coming years, when up to 33 stores will be allowed to open statewide, according to the agency.

Rhode Island is one of 19 states, and the District of Columbia to legalize recreational pot sales. Another 37 states, including Rhode Island, have approved medical cannabis programs.

The state’s law, which was approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, allows adults age 21 and older to possess up to 10 ounces of pot, and authorized regulated cultivation and sales. Residents can also have up to six pot plants in their home.

The law allows communities the option of charging pot shops excise taxes up to 20% on retail sales. It includes a 10% state cannabis excise tax, the state’s 7% sales tax and a 3% local tax.

Gov. Dan McKee had initially opposed legalization, but later proposed a plan to phase in recreational use and sales over a period of years. Lawmakers approved the legislation earlier this year, which McKee signed in May.

“The reality is that prohibition does not stop cannabis use,” Mckee said when he signed the legalization bill into law. “Since Rhode Islanders can already access cannabis just across the state border or on the illicit market, we experience all the challenges without any of the safeguards or resources that our neighboring states have.”

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