Rhode Island
Last Update: March 5, 2015

Legislation to treat marijuana like alcohol introduced in Providence

On March 5, Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. Scott Slater joined members of Regulate Rhode Island to announce the introduction of legislation to end Rhode Island’s prohibition of marijuana and instead tax and regulate it like alcohol. While the bill has been introduced three years previously, the momentum for the bill has never been stronger. Still, it’s vital that lawmakers hear from supportive constituents. If you are a resident of the Ocean State, please email your state representative and senator and ask them to support the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act!

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act proposes changing Rhode Island’s law in a manner similar to what voters enacted in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon. The proposal 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. This sensible approach to marijuana is already creating thousands of jobs and generating tens of millions of dollars of new revenue for Colorado. A report issued by OpenDoors estimates that the proposed Rhode Island model would generate between $21.5 and $82 million a year in much needed new tax revenue. 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, including Dr. David Lewis, Beth Comery from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the RI ACLU, the New England Area Conference of NAACP chapters, Prof. Andy Horwitz from Roger Williams University School of Law, the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Rhode Island chapter of the Sierra Club 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 marijuana is still illegal for adults in Rhode Island, the Ocean State is one of 19 across the country that have decided to no longer arrest or 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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Marijuana Policy Project
P.O. Box 77492
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. 20013

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