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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A rare window has opened for prospective dispensary owners to submit applications to the state, four months after new rules were finalized for the six new dispensaries (known as compassion centers) approved by the R.I. General Assembly.

The application from the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) goes live at 10 a.m. Friday and submissions will be accepted until December 15.

The state will be issuing the six new licenses using a lottery system based on six geographic zones, with one dispensary selected in each zone. (An applicant can submit one application per zone, paying the $10,000 application fee for each, but can only open one dispensary if picked out of the lottery twice.)

The geographic zones set up by the state for new compassion centers. Each zone will get one dispensary.

A date hasn’t been set for the lottery, but it will likely take place early next year, according to Pamela Toro, associate director and chief of legal services for DBR.

Rhode Island hasn’t licensed any new medical marijuana dispensaries since the the first three opened in 2013 and 2014. Despite the rapid growth of the cannabis industry, those three centers in Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth are still the only ones in the state.

“One of the centerpieces of the act is really access and benefits for patients,” Toro said. “This is important for that, not only in terms of geographic accessibility but varietal product accessibility.”

The coveted new licenses will cost $500,000 annually, and owners will only be able to sell cannabis — not grow it — until a market demand study is completed. The only exception to that is if a current licensed cultivator gets one of of the compassion center licenses, in which case the two licenses will merge.

The rules for the new dispensaries caused a power struggle between the General Assembly and Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration earlier this year, but was resolved in early March shortly before the pandemic hit.

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