Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Law
In 2006, the Rhode Island General Assembly overruled a veto from the governor to enact the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. Following the passage of the legislation, Rhode Island began creating the regulatory framework and patient protections for its medical marijuana program.
Progress was incremental as the state made numerous amendments to the law to add new qualifying medical conditions, open dispensaries, and establish safety guidelines. Today, any Rhode Islander with a qualifying medical condition can obtain a medical marijuana card for free, allowing them access to high-quality medical cannabis products.
While registration can help you manage the debilitating symptoms of your medical condition, it's vital to understand the rights and obligations you have as a participant in this program. Keep reading to learn more about relevant possession and consumption laws in the state of Rhode Island, which differ from those of other states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Law History
After passing the Medical Marijuana Act in 2006, the Rhode Island Department of Health legalized the possession of medical marijuana for patients with approved chronic and debilitating medical conditions. Such conditions include glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, hepatitis C, cachexia, and wasting syndrome, among others.
In 2009, the state issued three licenses to marijuana dispensaries called compassion centers. Sales of marijuana for medical use began in 2013.
Based on a governmental study of cannabis and positive results from the medical program, the state decriminalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in 2012. As the state-wide attitudes toward marijuana continued evolving, the legislature passed its first significant revision to the Medical Marijuana Act in 2016.
Lawmakers established new standards for home cultivation, gave patients the right to shop at any licensed dispensary, set up a system for patients to designate an authorized caregiver to purchase marijuana, and established an electronic database for verifying medical marijuana patient status.
Lawmakers expanded the list of qualifying conditions to include PTSD in 2016 and autism in 2018. The state legalized adult-use cannabis in 2020 and began recreational sales in 2022.
The recreational program is subject to a 10% cannabis tax. In addition, lawmakers eliminated the fees for medical marijuana card applications and tag fees for home-cultivated plants.
Marijuana Possession Laws in Rhode Island
According to Rhode Island state law, medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers can purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. Recreational users can purchase and possess up to one ounce of recreational cannabis at a time. Rhode Island allows residents to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis at their homes.
An MMJ identification card permits you to possess cannabis purchased from a licensed dispensary or cultivated at home for your personal use.
Rhode Island Public Consumption Laws
Currently, you can legally consume cannabis anywhere that cigarette smoking is allowed. However, due to the federal prohibition, you cannot smoke in national parks, federally subsidized housing, or within any other federal property, like courthouses.
The recent legalization of recreational marijuana will likely lead to revisions of the public consumption laws. The current legislation permits localities to set their own regulations and penalties for the public use of cannabis. Check with your local government for policy updates.
Rhode Island Cannabis DUI Laws
Operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana is considered DUI in Rhode Island. However, medical marijuana cardholders are not guilty of DUI solely based on having THC in their systems. Law enforcement is empowered to stop drivers if they suspect impairment.
Punishments for first offenses include a $500 fine, 20 to 60 hours of community service, imprisonment for up to one year, and a three to 18-month license suspension. Minimum penalties increase with each subsequent offense, including mandatory imprisonment for three-time offenders. It's best to plan travel before you consume cannabis.
Applying for a Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Card?
You can apply for a medical marijuana card in Rhode Island if you have a qualifying medical condition. First, you must consult a licensed physician and obtain a Written Certification for cannabis.
Following the appointment, you can enroll in the state registry using the Initial Registration packet. Applications require documents to provide your identity and Rhode Island residency. There are supplemental forms for patients diagnosed with autism and minors. Once complete, you will submit the packet to the state by mail.
After processing, they will contact you to have an ID photo taken. You must present a valid Rhode Island ID at the photo appointment to receive your marijuana card. Applications can process in as little as five days. To ensure swift approval, you must submit complete and accurate information. All documents must be clear and legible.
The Sanctuary can help guide you through the process, helping you assemble the strongest application. We will connect you with an experienced medical marijuana doctor to obtain your written certification. Our team is well-versed in the application process and up-to-date on current legislation.
Yes. Recreational sales began on December 1, 2022. As a medical cardholder, you will be allowed to purchase higher amounts of cannabis and be exempt from Rhode Island's 10% cannabis tax.
As the state gathers more data about recreational use, it will likely amend the medical program to protect patient rights and ensure priority access to cannabis.
You can purchase and possess flowers, pre-rolls, concentrates, edibles, topical applications, tinctures, and vape products. Several of the Rhode Island dispensaries have products that are reserved for medical marijuana patients to ensure availability.
In addition, if you register as a home cultivator when applying for your medical marijuana card, you can grow up to 12 plants per year with proper tagging.
Patients and caregivers cannot possess another patient's medical marijuana or more than the 10 ounces of cannabis permitted under law.
You can have up to 2.5 ounces on your person and 10 ounces stored in your home. Recreational users are only permitted 1 ounce on their person.
Yes. Rhode Island accepts valid medical marijuana cards from any state. If you are traveling, contact the dispensary you plan to use to verify store policies, hours, and inventories before visiting. Your purchases will be subject to Rhode Island laws and limits, not your home state.
Yes. There is no background check required to become a patient in Rhode Island. Individuals applying to be caregivers or authorized purchasers must submit to a background check at their local police station through the National Criminal Information Center.
Many drug and non-drug felonies disqualify an applicant from becoming a caregiver or authorized purchaser.