The battle for legal marijuana is heating up in Rhode Island

Last update: March 30, 2017


As Massachusetts moves forward with implementing its law to regulate marijuana like alcohol, Rhode Island must act this year. Otherwise, residents in Rhode Island will be able to access marijuana in Massachusetts, and the state will send millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to its neighbor.

In February, Sen. Joshua Miller (D – Cranston) and Rep. Scott Slater (D – Providence) introduced companion bills (H 5555 and S 0420) to establish a responsibly regulated marijuana market for adults. Around the same time, Public Policy Polling released a new survey of Rhode Island voters finding massive support for legalization, with 59% in support and only 35% opposed.

As a leading member of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition, the Marijuana Policy Project helped publish a new report in March: “Now is the time: Why Rhode Island should legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in 2017.” The report outlines key arguments and provides a resource of facts and data to help advocates make the case.

Looking forward to April, we expect serious discussions at the committee hearings in both the House and Senate. Regulate Rhode Island and its coalition partners are prepared to address every angle of the issue.

Please be sure to sign up for MPP’s alerts so that you can stay up-to-date on the progress we make in Rhode Island. And spread the word so we can grow our coalition, and let lawmakers know that 2017 is the year to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana!

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 21 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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