Rhode Island

Marijuana in Rhode Island

Medical Marijuana

  • 2.5 ounces.
  • 12 plants.
  • Physician permission.
  • State Registry.
  • Small-scale compassion centers.

Criminal Penalties


< 1kg: Misdemeanor – 1 year

w/intent: Felony – 10 years to life

Sale or Cultivation

Felony – 10 years to life

Medical marijuana in Rhode Island took effect upon passage of The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act in January 2006.

The law permits qualifying patients with written certification from a physician to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and or 12 plants. Cannabis must to stored in an indoor facility.

Medical conditions for which medical marijuana is an approved course of treatment include cachexia; cancer; glaucoma; Hepatitis C; chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures; multiple sclerosis; Crohn's Disease; or Alzheimer's Disease.

The program is administered by the Rhode Island Department of Health. Those patients who don’t register with the state may still raise an affirmative defense at trial.

Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island – Criminal Enforcement

In 2009, lawmakers amended the law to permit the establishment of not-for-profit compassion centers, to supply qualifying patients with medical cannabis. However, in October 2011 Gov. Lincon Chafee suspended the licensing program indefinitely, saying he had been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that such large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution centers would be targeted for enforcement by the federal government.

House Bill 8172 again amended the law when it passed in 2010; it provides confidentiality for medical marijuana patient records.

In 2012, Gov. Chafee signed SB2555, which established three small-scale compassion centers. The centers will be limited to cultivation of no more than 150 plants at a time – with no more than 99 plants mature. It’s interesting to note that higher federal penalties are triggered at the 100-plant threshold. Centers will also be restricted to possessing no more than 1,500 ounces of useable marijuana at a time. Meanwhile, the state was sued by the ACLU in 2012 over its decision to no longer accept medical marijuana applications signed by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants.

The first dispensaries slated to begin operation included the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence; Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick and Greenleaf Compassionate Care in Portsmouth.

Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers continue to see the impact of federal enforcement on growers and dispensary operators nationwide. Even in states where medical marijuana has long been legalized, the laws too often offer protection as an affirmative defense – after arrest and prosecution by overzealous law enforcement. Having experienced legal counsel on your side is vital to asserting your rights in the burgeoning legal cannabis industry.

Rhode Island Medical Marijuana News Archive:

Designated R.I. dispensaries expect to begin selling medical marijuana after Jan. 1, Providence Journal, Oct, 16, 2012.

ACLU sues over new RI medical marijuana policy, Boston Globe, Oct. 9, 2012.

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