Rhode Island: Ask your state legislators to support cannabis legalization!
Medical Cannabis and Decriminalized
States that have both a medical marijuana law and have removed jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana
Legislative committees hold hearings on proposals to legalize cannabis for adults
Last update: March 23, 2022
In early March, Rep. Scott Slater and Sen. Josh Miller, along with leaders in the House and Senate, formally introduced a pair of identical bills (S 2430andH 7593) to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for adults 21 and older in Rhode Island. A comprehensive summary of the proposal can be found here, while the full text of the measure can be found here.
The Senate Judiciary Committee and House Finance Committee each held public hearings on the legalization proposals in March, but no votes were taken. Much of the testimony and discussion at the hearings focused on expungement of past criminal records for cannabis offenses and the need for improved language to establish a state-initiated record clearance process.
Possession of small amounts is decriminalized: Possession of an ounce or less of cannabis is a civil penalty punishable by a citation of $150 for the first offense. The fine increases if not paid in a timely manner. If an individual receives three citations within an 18-month period, the individual may be charged with a misdemeanor. Minors under the age of 18 are required to appear before family court and be evaluated for substance misuse disorder in addition to paying the $150 fine.
Medical cannabis is permitted: An individual may register as a medical cannabis patient if his or her doctor certifies that the individual suffers from one or more of the following conditions:
cancer or the treatment of this condition
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
glaucoma or the treatment of this condition
positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or the treatment of this condition
acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or the treatment of this condition
hepatitis C or the treatment of this condition
a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
cachexia or wasting syndrome
severe, debilitating, chronic pain
seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease
agitation related to Alzheimer's disease
Once registered, a medical cannabis patient is permitted to cultivate up to 12 immature, non-flowering cannabis plants and up to 12 mature, flowering plants, provided each plant has a valid “tag” issued by the Department of Business Regulation. Patients are allowed to purchase cannabis products from three state-licensed dispensaries known as compassion centers. A patient may also appoint a caregiver to cultivate and provide medical cannabis.
Timeline of cannabis policy reform in Rhode Island
2006 – The Rhode Island General Assembly overrode Gov. Donald Carcieri’s veto to enact the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act.
2009 – Lawmakers approved an amendment to the medical cannabis law allowing state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries (“compassion centers”).
2009 - The General Assembly approved legislation to establish the Special Senate Commission to Study the Effects of Marijuana Prohibition.
2010 – The Special Senate Commission to Study the Effects of Marijuana Prohibition met several times and issued a report recommending the decriminalization of possession of an ounce or less of cannabis.
2012 – Lawmakers approved the cannabis decriminalization law, which went into effect on April 1, 2013.
2016 – Lawmakers approved the state budget, which made substantial reforms to Rhode Island’s medical cannabis program. Click here to read a summary of changes made by Article 14 of the Rhode Island FY 2017 budget.
2016 – Lawmakers approved legislation adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
2017 – Lawmakers approved legislation to establish a 19-member study commission on cannabis legalization and its potential effects on the state.
2018 – Rhode Island Department of Health approved autism as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis.
2019 – Governor signed budget tripling the number of compassion centers licenses from three to nine.
2020 – Governor introduces plan to legalize cannabis with state-run stores in her annual budget bill.