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Rhode Island’s cannabis advertising disparity with Massachusetts shines a spotlight on the uneven playing field, where neighboring operators thrive on billboard promotions while their RI counterparts face restrictive regulations.

Joe Pakuris, a cannabis dispensary owner near the Massachusetts border, laments the impact of this discrepancy, estimating a significant sales boost of over 30% if he were granted the same advertising opportunities, per The Providence Journal.

What Happened

Pakuris, owner of Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket, RI, defiantly erected billboards atop a nearby building to advertise his dispensary’s location along I-95, only to be met with a stern warning from Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation (DBR).

The state’s strict rules prohibit cannabis companies from advertising; they threatened him with severe fines of up to $10,000 a day and potential license repercussions.

Pakuris argues that he should have the right to promote his location without infringing on the ban. Despite his objections, DBR stands firm, citing the existing regulations established for the state’s medical marijuana program. Pakuris, however, maintains that DBR can amend the rules, emphasizing the harm caused to the industry and the need for answers.

RI Cannabis Developments

As the state awaits the formation of the Cannabis Control Commission, which could potentially revise the rules, Gov. Dan McKee‘s recent appointments seek approval from lawmakers.

While the House has already passed a proposal to allow advertising temporarily (House Bill 5829), DBR insists on compliance with existing regulations until changes are officially implemented, while expressing support for leveling the playing field through advertising.

Photo: Steve Stevakin, Shutterstock

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