On March 1, 2022, Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. Scott Slater introduced a pair of identical bills to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older in Rhode Island. An amended version of the legislation was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Dan McKee in May 2022. Below is a detailed summary of the legislation.
Adults 21 and older may:
Possess or purchase up to one ounce of cannabis;
Possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis in their home;
Possess up to five grams of cannabis concentrate (not including the weight of any ingredient combined with the concentrate);
Transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another adult; and
Cultivate up to three mature cannabis plants in their home, along with three additional immature plants.
The legislation establishes a process for individuals to expunge prior misdemeanor or felony convictions for cannabis possession by July 1, 2024.
Cannabis control commission
The governor shall appoint a three-member cannabis control commission with authority to regulate the cannabis industry and issue licenses.
Regulatory authority for the medical cannabis program will be transferred to the commission.
Cannabis advisory board
A cannabis advisory, consisting of 11 voting members and eight non-voting members, shall be established to provide recommendations to the cannabis control commission, including regulations relating to the administration and distribution of the social equity assistance fund.
The governor shall appoint a social equity officer to serve as chair of the advisory board.
The board shall maintain five subcommittees with members who are experts in:
the cannabis industry;
social equity; and
market participation for minority- and veteran-owned businesses, local agriculture, and growing cooperatives.
The existing office of cannabis regulation in the Department of Business Regulation shall be renamed the cannabis office.
The cannabis office will be delegated duties and tasks by the cannabis control commission related to the day-to-day oversight and enforcement of administrative, procedural, and operational matters.
There shall be a moratorium on the issuance of new cannabis cultivator licenses for two years following the final issuance of the commission's rules and regulations. The existing medical cannabis cultivators (there are currently more than 60 in the state) shall be granted licenses to produce adult-use cannabis if they are in good standing and comply with regulations.
Beginning August 1, 2022, existing medical cannabis compassion centers will have the opportunity to obtain a hybrid license to operate in the adult-use market by paying a $125,000 fee (to be deposited into the social equity fund).
In addition to the hybrid retailers, the commission is permitted to license another 24 retail businesses, with four in six different geographic regions of the state.
In each of the six geographic zones, one retail license must be awarded to a social equity applicant and another must be awarded to a business that is organized as a worker-owned cooperative. A social equity license may only be sold or transferred to another qualified social equity applicant. A license awarded to a worker-owned cooperative may only be sold or transferred to another worker-owned cooperative.
Independent, state-licensed laboratories shall be licensed to test cannabis products for potency and quality assurance.
The commission may recommend to the General Assembly that additional licenses be established for social consumption sites, cannabis delivery services, and other categories.
Licensed cannabis retailers shall be required to establish and maintain a labor peace agreement with a labor union.
No person or entity licensed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter or chapter 28.6 of title 21 may be granted more than one license.
Initial sales from hybrid retail establishments are slated to begin by December 2022.
Cities and towns shall have authority to regulate cannabis businesses in some aspects, including zoning and hours of operation.
A municipality may only ban cannabis establishments if such an ordinance is approved through a referendum involving the residents.
A criminal conviction for possession of cannabis cannot automatically disqualify an individual or otherwise affect eligibility for employment or licensure in connection with a cannabis establishment.
The use of cannabis shall not disqualify a person from any needed medical procedure or treatment, including organ and tissue transplants.
An employer cannot fire or take disciplinary action against an employee solely for an employee's private, lawful use of cannabis outside the workplace.
Absent evidence that a person’s actions have created a danger for a child, the use of cannabis cannot be the basis of denying parental rights.
Social equity assistance program and fund
All fees from adult-use cannabis businesses will be deposited into the social equity assistance fund.
As directed by the cannabis control commission, the fund shall be used to:
provide grants to approved social equity applicants to pay for ordinary and necessary expenses to establish and/or operate a cannabis establishment;
promote job training and workforce development, mentoring services, and technical assistance for social equity applicants;
reduce or waive application and licensing fees for social equity applicants; and
administer programming for restorative justice, jail diversion, drug rehabilitation, and education workforce development for jobs related to cannabis cultivation, transportation, distribution, and sales.
Cannabis taxes and medical cannabis fees
The measure creates a cannabis retail excise tax of 10% and a 3% local sales tax, in addition to the normal sales tax rate of 7%.
The legislation eliminates most fees for medical cannabis patients, including registration and renewal fees for patient cards, as well as and plant tag fees for patients who cultivate their own medical cannabis at home.