Is Marijuana Legal in Rhode Island?
The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, or S0710, was introduced in the Rhode Island Legislature in February 2005. The measure for Rhode Island medical marijuana was approved by the legislature on June 28, 2005. The following day, the bill was vetoed by Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri. On Jan. 3, 2006, The House overrode Carcieri’s veto, making Rhode Island the 11th state to legalize medical cannabis. Possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana in Rhode Island was also decriminalized. However, recreational weed possession is still considered a civil violation.
To enforce Rhode Island marijuana laws, S0710 established the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) Medical Marijuana Program. The DOH is responsible for reviewing and approving patient, caregiver, and authorized purchaser applications. The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation (DBR) is responsible for licensing and regulatory oversight of cultivators and cooperative cultivations, as well as oversight of the state’s medical marijuana plant tracking system. On Jan. 1, 2017, the DBR became responsible for licensing and regulating Rhode Island’s compassion centers, following a major revision of the rules and regulations governing the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program.
Where is it Safe to Purchase?
Patients, caregivers, and authorized purchasers can obtain cannabis from one of three state licensed compassion centers. If patients are unable to make the transaction themselves, they may designate up to one caregiver and one authorized purchaser to deliver the medical cannabis to them. Patients, caregivers, and authorized purchasers are limited to 2.5 oz(70.87 grams) of usable cannabis every 15 days.
Commercial delivery services are prohibited in Rhode Island.
Consumers are not subjected to any excise, use, or sales tax associated with the legal purchase of medical cannabis.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
Cannabis consumption must take place on private property.
Smoking or vaping in a designated non-smoking area is prohibited.
Driving or riding a bicycle under the influence of cannabis is illegal. Consumption in a vehicle is not allowed, for either drivers or passengers.
Possession and Cultivation
Only patients and their caregiver or authorized purchaser can legally possess medical cannabis. All must be registered with the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program and possess valid registry identification cards. Patients, caregivers, and authorized purchasers are permitted to possess up to 2.5 oz (70.87 grams) of usable cannabis or any combination of dried, edible, or concentrate marijuana at one time. Possession of 1 ounce (28.35 grams) or less of non-medical cannabis is a civil crime punishable by a fine of $150 for the first offense.
Patients who elect to cultivate their own cannabis are limited to 12 mature plants and 12 seedlings. Patients who grow marijuana and all primary caregivers must register their grow location with the DOH. All patients and caregivers will also be required to have a medical marijuana plant tag for each plant that they grow. Tags are sold in sets of two, for one mature plant and one immature plant. The fee is $25 per tag set.
Primary caregivers may possess and cultivate medical cannabis for up to five patients at one time. A primary caregiver may possess up to 24 mature marijuana plants with valid medical cannabis tags, as well as 24 seedlings. Primary caregivers may also possess 2.5 oz (70.87 grams) of usable dried cannabis per patient in a single location.
Patients are required to designate if they wish to grow their own cannabis or appoint a caregiver to grow on their behalf..
Medical cannabis cooperative cultivation options are available to registered patients and caregivers who wish to operate either a residential or non-residential facility. A residential cooperative cultivation formed by two or more qualified patient and/or primary caregivers may possess no more than 24 mature cannabis plants and 24 seedlings for a total of 48 cannabis plants. Residential cooperative collectives are allowed 10 ounces of usable cannabis in addition to the aggregate total maximum of dried cannabis, edible, or concentrate equivalent that all members of the cooperative are permitted to possess.
A non-residential cooperative cultivation may possess 48 mature cannabis plants, 48 seedlings, and the aggregate total number of mature plants and seedlings that each individual qualified patient and each individual primary caregiver growing at the cooperative cultivation is permitted to grow under the mature plant and seedling possession limits provided by the DBR. Non-residential cooperative collectives are also allowed 10 ounces of usable cannabis in addition to the aggregate total maximum of dried usable cannabis, edible, or concentrate equivalent that all members of the cooperative are permitted to possess.
Additionally, all plants must have a corresponding plant tag purchased from the DBR.
Medical Marijuana Program
The Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program, administered by the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH), is responsible for the oversight of patient, caregiver, and authorized purchaser applications. The DOH also issues medical marijuana identification cards and processes renewals.
Patients, Caregivers, and Authorized Purchasers
Adult patients and patients younger than 18 must meet certain requirements for DOH approval. For minors, the patient’s parent or legal guardian must be designated as their caregiver and/or authorized purchaser.
Residents of Rhode Island who have been diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating medical condition have the right to obtain and use medical cannabis if they have a physician’s written certification form.
A registered caregiver must be at least 21 years old to participate in the program. Registered caregivers will be required to provide proof of residency and complete a background check.
Qualifying patients may designate one authorized purchaser to assist in purchasing and delivering marijuana from a compassion center or cooperative cultivator. An authorized purchaser must be at least 21 years old and must complete a background check as well. An authorized purchaser may live out of state.
There is currently no online registry. Patients may complete an application online, but all applications must be mailed to the DOH for review and approval. The application process takes 2-4 weeks from the date it is received by the DOH. Patient and caregiver registrations expire one year from the date issued. Renewal applications are sent out 60 days before the expiration date.
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Cancer or cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Glaucoma or glaucoma treatment
- Hepatitis C or treatment for hepatitis C
- Seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe, debilitating, or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – patient must be 18 or older
- Obtain a physician’s certification that confirms diagnosis of at least one qualifying medical condition.
- Complete and submit an application to the DOH
- Provide a valid state-issued identification card to establish proof of Rhode Island residency
- Submit applicable application fee(s):
$50 patient application fee
$100 caregiver application fee
$50 authorized purchaser application fee
The Rhode Island Department of Health has stipulated all medical cannabis harvested by licensed cultivators and registered compassion centers be tested for safety and quality control. However, the DOH has yet to draft or adopt any official state testing regulations.