Worried Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program could face a severe shortage of legal product come the new year, business regulation officials issued emergency regulations Wednesday to get a new category of private pot growers, called cultivators, up and running as quickly as possible.

Those cultivators will replace patient caregivers as vital suppliers for the state’s three dispensaries, which currently aren't producing all the various strains of the plant needed for the state’s more than 15,470 patients.

For years, a practice that allowed those caregivers to sell their excess marijuana to the dispensaries provided that necessary function. But it also fueled excess pot flowing onto the black market.

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Jennifer Bogdan and Tom Mooney ~ ProvidenceJournal.com ~