Coalition of legislators and organizations renew push for bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol


Last update: February 18, 2016



On February 11, Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. Scott Slater introduced legislation to end Rhode Island’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition and establish a legal, responsibly regulated marijuana market for adults. In the Senate, the bill is co-sponsored by the Democratic Majority Leader, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and 13 other members. In the House, the legislation is supported by Republican Minority Leader Brian Newberry and other co-sponsors. Please email your lawmakers and ask them to make the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act a top priority this legislative session.

The proposal has strong public backing, too, including support from local business owners, economists, social justice advocates, medical doctors, former law enforcement officials, clergy, and public health experts. More than two dozen organizations have joined the Regulate Rhode Island coalition. In addition, a poll in April 2015 found that 57% of Rhode Island voters support ending marijuana prohibition.

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act would allow individuals 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. The legislation would also direct the Department of Business Regulation to license and regulate 10 marijuana producers and 40 retail marijuana stores, as well as 10 processors that manufacture infused products and up to 20 safety compliance centers that are required to test marijuana products for potency and safety. The legislation could generate an additional $58 million a year in additional revenue for the state, some of which would be invested in local governments and public health services.

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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Pending Legislation