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Is Marijuana Legal In Rhode Island? RI Cannabis Laws

In 2006, Rhode Island became the eleventh state to legalize medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in the state of RI if you are a qualifying patient, authorized purchaser, or a primary caregiver with a state-issued medical marijuana card. 

Recreational marijuana, on the other hand, currently remains illegal, though possession of small amounts was decriminalized in 2013. Marijuana possession of an ounce or less is treated as a civil penalty that carries a small fine. Larger amounts under a kilogram are treated as a misdemeanor offense, while amounts over a kilogram result in harsher felony charges. 

Recreational marijuana legalization could be within reach, though, as the Rhode Island Senate passed legislation this summer that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. The Rhode Island House of Representatives and governor have also proposed similar legislation, but the Senate bill was the first ever to be considered by Rhode Island’s legislature. All in all, this suggests strong support for marijuana legalization. 

The state legislature may hold a special session before the end of the year to reconcile differences between the Senate bill, legislation under consideration by the House, and the governor’s proposal. If they can come to terms, Rhode Island would join 18 other states (and Washington, D.C.) in having legalized recreational cannabis. 

Read on to learn more about Rhode Island’s medical marijuana laws and how pending legislation could soon legalize recreational cannabis possession, sales, cultivation and use.  

Rhode Island Marijuana Laws 

Purchasing & Possession 

Where can I buy legal cannabis in Rhode Island? 

Patients, caregivers and authorized purchasers can buy legal cannabis from a licensed compassion center in Rhode Island 

In 2019, state lawmakers approved the expansion of the number of dispensaries from three to nine. Following years of regulatory delays and the threat of a lawsuit, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation finally held a lottery last month to award five new medical dispensary licenses. The new dispensaries will improve access to medical marijuana to the more than 19,000 Rhode Island residents who possess medical marijuana cards. 

How much am I allowed to purchase and possess? 

A qualifying patient cardholder is allowed to possess medical marijuana if it doesn’t exceed the amount of: 

  1. 12 mature marijuana plants and 12 immature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana plant tags 
  2. Two and one-half ounces (2.5 oz.) of dried medical marijuana 

A caregiver or an authorized purchaser is allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of dried marijuana if it was purchased legally from a compassion center for the use of a designated qualifying patient.

The situation is different for recreational cannabis. Possession of an ounce or less is considered a civil penalty that carries a $150 fine for a first offense. Anyone cited three times within an 18-month period may be charged with a misdemeanor. In addition to the $150 fine, minors under the age of 18 cited for possession are required to appear in family court and are subject to evaluation for substance abuse disorder.

Marijuana possession in amounts between one ounce and one kilogram can result in misdemeanor charges that carry maximum penalties of one year in jail and/or $500 in fines.

It’s also important to know that amounts over one kilogram are automatically treated as a felony possession with intent to distribute offense. A conviction for this charge results in a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, as well as $500,000 in fines. The mandatory minimum jumps to 25 years imprisonment, with maximum life in prison, for amounts over five kilograms. 

Where is it safe to consume cannabis in Rhode Island? 

Medical marijuana patients are only allowed to consume cannabis on private property out of view from the public. Consumption in public can lead to steep fines. 

The Rhode Island Department of Health also notes that the state’s Medical Marijuana Act does not comply with federal statutes and regulations prohibiting possession and use of marijuana. Thus, possession and/or use on federal parks or other property should be avoided, as should interstate transportation via train, bus or plane. 

Does Rhode Island accept out-of-state cards? 

Yes. Rhode Island licensed compassion centers are authorized to dispense medical marijuana related supplies and educational materials to registered qualifying patients. Compassion centers may also dispense to registered primary caregivers or authorized purchasers, or out-of-state patient cardholders. 

Driving, Exporting & Traveling 

Rhode Island Cannabis DUI 

The state’s impaired driving laws include marijuana. You can be charged with impaired driving if caught behind the wheel with any detectable amount of the substance in your body. Additionally, anyone cited for possession of cannabis while driving is subject to a six-month driver’s license suspension.  

Can I have medical marijuana in my car? 

Medical marijuana can legally be transported in vehicles by patients, caregivers and authorized purchasers, but must be sealed in its original packaging. However, it cannot be consumed in vehicles, even by passengers. 

Crossing state lines 

Cannabis, even of the legal medical variety, cannot be legally transported across state lines. However, Rhode Island has medical marijuana reciprocity with most other states with medical marijuana programs. So, while you may not be able to bring your own legal cannabis, you will be able to procure it in those states that also offer reciprocity.  

Can I grow cannabis at home? 

Under the law, patients and primary caregivers are allowed to cultivate up to 12 mature flowering plants, as well as 12 immature non-flowering plants. Anyone growing medical marijuana is required to purchase Department of Business Regulation plant tags. 

Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program 

The state’s Medical Marijuana Act allows any individual to register as a medical marijuana patient if their doctor certifies that they suffer from any of more than 12 different debilitating conditions. Once registered, the medical marijuana cards allow patients to legally possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana, or their edible and extract equivalents. Patients can legally purchase cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries and/or can cultivate their own. 

Patients can also designate an authorized purchaser or primary caregiver to assist them in procuring marijuana. Such designees also need to be registered with the state, are subject to background checks, and must follow specific requirements relating to their role. 

According to the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program website, if you’re interested in becoming a patient, the following steps are key. 

  1. Visit your doctor 
  2. Register as a medical marijuana patient 
  3. Determine if you are eligible for the reduced application fee 
  4. Designate a caregiver 
  5. Designate an authorized purchaser 

Once you’ve become a patient, you’ll be expected to adhere to the following guidelines. 

  1. Keep your information up to date 
  2. Use medical marijuana responsibly 
  3. Order a replacement registration card when yours is lost or stolen 

What is the difference between caregivers and authorized purchasers? 

A caregiver can: 

  1. Grow their own marijuana 
  2. Buy marijuana from a compassion center 
  3. Have up to five patients  

An authorized purchaser can only: 

  1. Buy marijuana at a compassion center 
  2. Have one patient 

Can my employer prohibit me from consuming cannabis products outside of work? 

Rhode Island employers are allowed to approve medical cannabis use at work. According to The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, employers, schools and landlords cannot take any actions that penalize a medical marijuana user for their use of medical cannabis.  

What marijuana products are legal in the state of RI? 

You can purchase: 

  1. Flower 
  2. Pre-rolls 
  3. Vapes 
  4. Edibles 
  5. Concentrates 
  6. Topicals 

Hemp Products

After the federal government’s 2018 Farm Bill made it clear that hemp-derived CBD products are legal, the State of Rhode Island followed by passing a state law legalizing hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3% THC. Basically, there is no restriction on purchasing or possessing CBD products if they are under the THC level threshold. 

Sources:

  1. Medical Marijuana Program: Rhode Island Department of Health  
  2.  Medical Marijuana Act 
  3. The Medical Marijuana Program, Frequently Asked Questions for Patients and Caregivers  
  4. Marijuana Policy Project – State Policy Rhode Island  
  5. Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation 
  6. Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill – 07/25/2019 | FDA

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