Rhode Island – R.I.’s third medical marijuana dispensary to open in Warwick on Monday

WARWICK, R.I. — Following a series of fits and starts that date to 2011, the state’s third and final dispensary, Summit Medical Compassion Center, is set to open its doors on Monday to sell medical marijuana to patients registered with the state.

The dispensary is a low-key facility in a commercial plaza at 380 Jefferson Blvd., just off Route 95 south.

The Warwick dispensary comes about a year and a half after the first two dispensaries opened, in spring 2013.

The first was the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, at 1 Corliss St., Providence. It was followed about six weeks later by Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, at 1637 West Main Rd., Portsmouth.

At Summit Medical, internal squabbling between incorporators, the board of directors and other individuals delayed its opening. It also took them time to find a home.

The projections for Summit have been scaled down considerably from where they were three years ago. Initially, the dispensary planned on having 8,000 customers within three years. Today, it is shooting for 600 patients in the first six months; 1,105 after the first year; and 1,610 after the second year.

Meanwhile, the number of patients licensed to use medical marijuana for a variety of ailments has continued to grow at a rapid pace. Figures from the state Department of Health show that there are 9,668 registered patients, up from 6,720 patients 11 months ago.

Slater has 4,781 registered patients, while Greenleaf has 1,647, state records show. Those figures are far beyond the initial projections for each dispensary.

Rhode Island is one of 23 states and the District of Columbia that allows the state-regulated sale of medical marijuana. On Tuesday, Oregon and Alaska became the third and fourth states in the nation to legalize recreational use of marijuana for anyone at least 21 years old. (See related story, A9.)

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington.

In recent years, state legislators have attempted to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island, but those efforts have stalled in the General Assembly.

Terence M. Fracassa, Summit’s legal counsel, said there are seven employees at the Warwick business. He predicted that the number will jump to 25 to 29 by the end of the first year and climb to 39 employees after year two.

On Monday, Summit Medical will offer a dozen strains of medical marijuana from a sleek counter with glass cases similar to a jewelry store. Among the types of cannabis will be White Diesel, Jelly Bean, Blueberry and Stacked Kush. It will cost anywhere from $290 to the upper $300s an ounce for the marijuana, depending on the type.

Napoleon Brito, a retired Providence police officer, serves as Summit Medical’s general manager. He was asked whether it was awkward to work for a firm selling a drug that was illegal when he was on the police force.

“Times change,” he said. “It’s legal.”

The sole financier of Summit Medical is Cuttino Mobley, a former University of Rhode Island basketball star who made tens of millions of dollars playing on several teams in the NBA, including the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks. He loaned Summit $3.5 million with an interest rate of 6 percent. He also has provided financing for four medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine, where he attended prep school.

The dispensary covers about 7,500 square feet in a nondescript setting that would barely draw attention from passing motorists. A couple of hundred yards away, at 66 Illinois Ave., is a 10,000-square-foot building where the marijuana will be grown.

The grow room, which has 20-foot ceilings, is undergoing extensive renovations. Brito, the general manager, predicted that it will be completed next month.

Chris Sands, quality control and business manager for Summit, said the first crop of marijuana would probably be ready in the spring. It takes about five months to harvest marijuana from seedlings. In the meantime, Summit, like Slater and Greenleaf, will buy marijuana from licensed caregivers in the state that have excess product.

Fracassa said Summit, like Slater and Greenleaf, also will sell edible marijuana products such as cookies and brownies. Eventually, he said, they hope to start delivery service to homebound residents.

Greenleaf received permission from the Health Department last week to become the first dispensary to deliver in the state.

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