Rhode Island seeks bidders to run a lottery to decide who operates 6 new medical marijuana dispensaries – The Providence Journal

Tom Mooney   | The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island is looking for an experienced person or a firm to create and run a lottery in May to decide who operates six proposed new medical marijuana dispensaries.

On Friday the state posted online a request for proposals to “design and develop the methodology for the random selection process,” that would be held, in public, around May 14.

“The firm or individual will be primarily responsible for securing all equipment, technology, or other necessary mediums to run the process.”

Lotteries have been used in other jurisdictions around the country to decide who wins the often lucrative licenses, but the practice hasn’t been universally endorsed here.

Several local marijuana business owners have said operating licenses should be based on merit, with those companies with proven track-records better positioned to run new dispensaries than newcomers.

But Gov. Gina Raimondo has said she wanted a lottery to avoid political favoritism entering the selection process.

In December, 28 marijuana companies, many with marijuana-growing affiliations in other states — submitted applications in the hopes of qualifying for the lottery and then winning a license to run one of the new regional dispensaries.

Raimondo and her administration pushed for more dispensaries to meet the skyrocketing use of medical marijuana — and to spread them out around the state to improve access and price competition.

The state currently has three dispensaries — in Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth —  which have been allowed to grow their own marijuana since they opened in 2013 and 2014.

The new dispensaries were proposed as retail stores only, though the regulations include the possibly of that provision changing if regulators determine there is a need, and perhaps, if the General Assembly approves recreational use of the drug.

If, and until then, the new dispensaries would

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