Rhode Island Legislature continues to consider ending marijuana prohibition


Last update: October 17, 2015


When it gaveled out of session on June 25, the Rhode Island Legislature did so without first voting on replacing marijuana prohibition with a responsibly regulated and limited marijuana market that allows adults to possess, purchase, and consume marijuana free from penalty. Considering its overwhelming public support, we believe enacting the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act should be a top priority when lawmakers return to Providence in 2016, but we need you to make this happen. If you are a resident of Rhode Island, please email your lawmakers and ask them to consider the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act next session.

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act is supported by a broad array of individuals and organizations, including racial justice advocates, former law enforcement officials, clergy, public health researchers, medical doctors, economists, and local business owners. In addition, recent polling found 57% of Rhode Island voters support replacing marijuana prohibition with regulation.

Championed by Rep. Scott Slater and Sen. Josh Miller, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act would allow individuals 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis. It would also direct the Department of Business Regulation to license and regulate marijuana producers and at least 10 retail marijuana stores. A sample estimate prepared by MPP, and endorsed by University of Rhode Island economics professor John Burkett, estimates Rhode Island can expect to raise roughly $58 million each year off the taxes proposed in this bill. For more information on the legislation, please see our summary of the bill.

Many thanks to our fellow members of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition, and everyone else in Rhode Island fighting to end marijuana prohibition in a sensible way. Please be sure to sign up for MPP’s legislative alerts so that you can stay up-to-date with the act’s progress.

Rhode Island’s current possession and medical marijuana laws


While it is still illegal for most adults in Rhode Island to use, possess, or cultivate cannabis, the Ocean State is one of 20 across the country that have decided to no longer jail individuals for simple possession. In 2012, an MPP-led lobbying effort culminated in passage of a law that reduced the penalty for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a $150 civil fine. If the individual is under 18, their parent or legal guardian will be notified, and the minor will be required to complete a drug awareness and education program. A third possession offense within 18 months would result in criminal charges.

Rhode Island also has a compassionate medical marijuana program that has been bringing relief to many seriously ill residents for almost a decade. The law protects registered patients from arrest and prosecution for possessing, using, or cultivating a limited amount of marijuana if they have a doctor’s recommendation to do so. The law was amended in 2009 to allow for regulated compassion centers that can distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients. For more information on the medical marijuana program, which MPP played a leading role in enacting, please visit the Rhode Island Department of Health website.

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