Is marijuana legal in Rhode Island?
Current legality status
Cannabis is legal for qualified patients with a licensed card.
Medical marijuana is legal in Rhode Island. Recreational use is not legal. First offense possession of one ounce or less has been decriminalized to a $150 fine.
Even with medical marijuana available, patient access is limited in Rhode Island. A license requires a lot of paperwork, plus access to and the ability to pay for a doctor. Fees for applications and plant tags are additional barriers.
A second government registration is required if a patient wants to cultivate plants at home. Currently, there are only three “compassion centers,” or dispensaries, though the state approved six more in 2019.
Patients can possess up to 2.5 oz of marijuana, as well as 12 mature (flowering) plants and 12 immature (non-flowering) plants. Tags for individual plants must be purchased from the state. They are sold in pairs, one mature and one immature, for $25.
Non-medical possession of less than one ounce is a civil offense with a $150 fine. Fines double after 30 days and double again after 90 days.
Here is a list of possession penalties:
- First and second offense (within 18 months) of one ounce or less: no incarceration, $150 fine
- More than one ounce: max one year incarceration, $500 fine
- Third offense in 18 months of one ounce or less: 30 days incarceration, $500 fine
Rhode Island medical marijuana laws
Medical marijuana has been legal in Rhode Island since the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act passed in 2006. Since then, new pro-marijuana laws and amendments have trickled through the state government, including decriminalization of first offense possession of one ounce of marijuana in 2012.
Recreational use has looked unfeasible until recently, but with recreational use legal in Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts, Rhode Island’s marijuana-hesitant governor is giving in.
Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo signed a budget that tripled the number of possible compassion centers from three to nine in 2019. And most recently, Gov. Raimondo’s 2021 state budget included a plan to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana.
However, legal doesn’t mean laissez-faire use in Rhode Island. Gov. Raimondo’s 2020 “Adult Use Marijuana Act” is as strict as the state’s medical provisions.
Rhode Island’s medical marijuana application process is long and complex, and the approved conditions list is short.
Rhode Island qualifying conditions for medical marijuana
Rhode Island grants medical marijuana licenses to people with “debilitating medical conditions.” A doctor must certify in writing that marijuana “may ease symptoms” and that the benefits “would likely outweigh the health risks.”
Here are the approved conditions to become a medical marijuana patient in Rhode Island:
- Hepatitis C
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Severe, debilitating, chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease
- Agitation related to Alzheimer’s Disease
- Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the department of health, as provided for in Rhode Island’s Medical Marijuana Act.
How to get a medical marijuana card in Rhode Island
Applying for medical marijuana is complicated in Rhode Island. The state has online resources for people seeking medical marijuana licenses, but most provide general information, not granular details. Here is a helpful FAQ for patients and caregivers to get you started.
The application, a pdf that must be downloaded, printed, completed, and mailed, has all of the details. Read it carefully: it is full of small print.
An application requires:
- Proof that you are a Rhode Island resident
- A full list of acceptable documentation is included on the application, including but not limited to a RI driver’s license, state ID, correspondence from a state agency, or a current car insurance bill
- A Practitioner Form from your health care professional
- A check or money order for the $50 application fee
- Later, you will need a RI driver’s license or RI state ID as proof of identity to get your card photo taken
Steps to apply:
- Check with your doctor to see if your medical condition qualifies for an application
- Have your doctor fill out a Practitioner Form
- Rhode Island Advanced Practice Nurses, Physician Assistants, and Physicians (MD, DO) can fill out forms. Medical doctors (MDs) licensed to practice in MA or CT can also fill out forms.
- Determine if you are eligible for reduced application fee
- Recipients of Medicaid, other government aid, and/or various disability benefits are eligible for reduced application fee. (Check the application for the full list.)
- If applicable, provide one of the following with your application: photocopy of your Medicaid Card or other proof that you are a recipient of aid
- Patients receiving chemotherapy or hospice with a written statement from a physician do not need to pay a fee
- Fill out a patient application form
- Gather all your documents and make a copy
- Application form, practitioner form, copy of photo ID, copy of proof of aid (if applicable), check or money order of application fee
- Mail your application form to register as a Medical Marijuana Patient (the address is on the form, and application forms will not be accepted via email or fax)
- Wait: The application process takes 2-4 weeks
- Incomplete applications will be mailed back to the patient
- Once you are approved, you will receive a letter and must go in person to have your photo taken for your medical card
If you intend to grow medical marijuana at home within the year, contact the Department of Business Regulations at 401-462-9661 or visit their website.
You may designate a caregiver in your application. You do not have to designate a caregiver unless you are under 18. Caregivers must pass background checks.
Another optional step is to designate an authorized purchaser. An authorized purchaser assists a patient in purchasing and delivering medical marijuana from a compassionate care center to the patient. You do not have to designate a purchaser. Purchasers must pass background checks.
If you move or want to change your registered caregiver, use the Patient Information Change Form
Does Rhode Island accept out-of-state medical cards?
Yes, Rhode Island accepts out-of-state medical marijuana cards. It is recommended that you call a compassion center in advance. You will need two forms of government identification. The limit is 2.5 ounces or an equivalent in concentrate form per 15 days.
Out-of-state cards are limited to states that track sales: WA, OR, CA, NV, AK, HI, MT, CO, NM, ND, AR, IL, MI, OH, PA, NY, MD, DE, RI, MA, & DC.
When does my Rhode Island medical marijuana card expire?
Cards expire one year after the issue date. Renewal applications are sent out 60 days before your expiration date. You can ask for a renewal form by emailing email@example.com. Rhode Island medical marijuana cards are required to have an expiration date on the card.
Rhode Island is one of several states that have created special provisions related to medical marijuana licenses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Check this page for COVID-19 related updates to renewal applications.
Rhode Island marijuana growing laws
Home cultivation of medical marijuana is legal in Rhode Island. However, there are limits and regulations. A medical marijuana cardholder or a primary care provider may have up to 12 mature plants (flowering) and an additional 12 immature plants (non-flowering).
Patients must indicate if they plan to grow their own medical marijuana on their application and register the grow location with the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Each plant and seeding must have a plant tag certificate. Tags are sold in pairs of one mature and one immature tag for $25. Patients and caregivers who receive a reduced program registration fee do not have to pay the tag fee.
To order plant tags, visit rimmptags.com.
“Cooperative Cultivations” are no longer permitted as of July 2019. Previously licensed cooperatives can download renewal applications here.
Rhode Island public consumption laws
Medical marijuana is legal, but consumption is restricted. It is illegal to smoke in public, operate a vehicle under the influence, or perform a task that could endanger others if intoxicated.
It is illegal to smoke marijuana:
- In any public place
- On public transportation
- Anywhere use could expose children to significant adverse effects
- On school grounds or a school bus
- In a drug treatment facility or correctional facility
It is also illegal for any person to:
- Undertake any task under the influence of marijuana, when doing so would constitute negligence or professional malpractice
- Operate, navigate, or be in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana. However, a registered qualifying patient shall not be considered under the influence solely for having marijuana metabolites in his or her system.
Rhode Island cannabis DUI laws
Driving under the influence is illegal everywhere and Rhode Island is no exception. A person is guilty of a DUI in Rhode Island if they operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance or has a controlled substance in their blood as measured by blood or urine tests. Registered medical marijuana patients will not be considered intoxicated just for having marijuana metabolites in their system.
Rhode Island is an Implied Consent state, which means that by driving in the state you give permission for chemical breath, blood, and/or urine tests. Refusing to take a test has repercussions.
- The penalties for a first refusal to take a chemical test are a fine of $200 to $500; 10 to 60 hours of community service, and a six month toone year suspension of the person’s driver’s license.
- A peace officer with probable cause that someone was intoxicated while operating a vehicle can obtain a search warrant for a test without a person’s consent.
Penalties for driving while under the influence include:
- First offense with controlled substance present in blood: fine of $100 to $300; up to one year in prison; 10 to 60 hours of community service; 30 to 180 days suspension of driver’s license; possible attendance required at a course on driving while intoxicate
- First offense while under the influence of a controlled substance: a $500 fine; up to one year in prison; 20 to 60 hours of community service; three months to 1.5 years suspension of driver’s license; attendance of a course on driving while intoxicated
- Second offense with controlled substance present in blood (within five years): 10 days to one year in jail, with at least 48 hours served consecutively; a $400 fine; one to two years suspension of driver’s license; alcohol or drug treatment required; the judge may prohibit a person from operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock system (IID) installed for one to two years
- Second offense while under the influence of a controlled substance (within 5 years): six months to one year imprisonment; a $1,000 fine; two year license suspension after imprisonment is completed
- Third or subsequent offense with controlled substance present in blood (within 5 years) : Felony — one to three years in jail with at least 48 hours served consecutively; a $400 fine; two to three year suspension of driver’s license; alcohol or drug treatment; the judge may prohibit a person from operating a vehicle without IID installed for two years following imprisonment; the judge may have the vehicle seized and sold
- Third or subsequent offense while under the influence of a controlled substance (within 5 years) : Felony — three to five years imprisonment; a $1,000 to $5,000 fine; a three year suspension of driver’s license after the sentence is served; the judge may have the vehicle seized and sold
- Minor in the vehicle: an additional six month suspension of driver’s license
Rhode Island cannabis testing regulations
Rhode Island does not require testing of marijuana for potency or contaminants such as pesticides or metals. The Rhode Island Department of Health licensed its first testing facility in July 2020, nearly two years after soliciting applications from laboratories.
State departments say they have plans for future regulations, and the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulations’ Office plans to gather feedback from growers, compassion centers, patients, and the licensed test facility in order to establish a time frame of when medical marijuana products will be required to have potency labels from licensed testing facilities.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in Rhode Island
Can medical patients grow in Rhode Island?
Yes. Home cultivation is legal for medical patients but limited to 12 plants and 12 seedlings. You must purchase registered tags for each plant and seedling.
Where can I buy plant tags?
Order plant tags at rimmptags.com.
Is Rhode Island a medical state?
Yes. Medical marijuana is legal in Rhode Island. Recreational marijuana is not.
Is recreational marijuana legal in Rhode Island?
No. Marijuana is a controlled substance in Rhode Island and it is illegal to grow, use or sell it without proper medical or legal authorization.
Can you have a caregiver or authorized purchaser in Rhode Island?
Yes, you can designate a caregiver and/or authorized purchaser.
What is an authorized purchaser?
An authorized purchaser assists in purchasing and delivering marijuana from a compassion center. A patient may designate one purchaser only. A purchaser may only assist one patient. A purchaser may live out of state. The state requires background checks for purchasers and they can be disqualified for past felony convictions.
What is a caregiver?
A primary caregiver assists a medical marijuana patient. A parent can be a designated caregiver for a child under 18. Caregivers must be at least 21 years of age and residents of Rhode Island. A caregiver can assist up to five patients. A patient can only have one caregiver. The state requires background checks for caregivers and they can be disqualified for past felony convictions.
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