Jenny Bloom

October 7, 2019

In the State of Rhode Island, cannabis, to some degree, has been decriminalized. This means that those found to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use receive no jail time. The offense also doesn’t go on their criminal records.

Rhode Island has implemented a medical marijuana program under the Patient Advocacy Coalition. It allows patients to receive identification cards allowing them to obtain medical cannabis. They must suffer from one or more state-approved chronic, debilitating conditions.

These patients must obtain marijuana and derivatives from state-licensed dispensaries, known as Compassion Centers. No one can legally cultivate or grow cannabis in Rhode Island unless they’re participating in the state’s medical marijuana program.

Possessing Marijuana in Rhode Island

Although slightly decriminalized, it is still illegal for anyone not involved in Rhode Island’s medical cannabis program to possess marijuana in this state. Penalties for such crimes related to personal use are as follows:

  • Under 1 ounce = Civil violation: Fine of $150 with no time in jail and no criminal record
  • Between 1 ounce to 1 kilogram = Misdemeanor: Fine up to $500 and up to 1-year incarceration
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Possession of any amount over 1 ounce, or under any of the circumstances below, is considered possession with intent to distribute. These crimes are felonies and are punishable as follows:

  • Between 1 to 5 kilograms = Up to $500,000 fine and mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to up to 50 years’ incarceration
  • Over 5 kilograms = Up to $100,000 fine and mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to up to life in prison
  • Within 300 yards of school = Doubled penalties for the crime
  • While driving = 6 months’ driver’s license suspension
  • Found in or transported by a vehicle (first offense) = 6 months’ driver’s license suspension
  • Found in or transported by a vehicle (subsequent offense) = 1-year driver’s license suspension

Concentrates & Hash

In the State of Rhode Island, concentrates and hashish fall under the same definition and penalties as the plant form of cannabis.

Medical Marijuana

Qualifying patients participating in the Rhode Island medical cannabis program may legally possess marijuana. However, they can only have no more than 2 ½ ounces of marijuana in their possession at one time.

Selling Marijuana in Rhode Island

Rhode Island lawmakers penalize marijuana sales and cannabis cultivation as the same. They carry the same felony penalties, which are as follows:

  • Under 1 kilogram = Up to $100,000 fine and up to 30 years’ incarceration
  • Between 1 to 5 kilograms = Up to $500,000 fine and up to 50 years’ incarceration
  • Over 5 kilograms = Up to $500,000 fine and mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years to up to life in prison
  • To minor 3 or more years younger = Additional fine up to $10,000 and additional 2 to 5 years’ incarceration for the crime
  • Within 300 yards of playground, public park or school = Doubled penalties for the crime


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It is illegal to possess, sell, deliver or manufacture drug paraphernalia in the State of Rhode Island. Such crimes are punishable as follows:

  • Any of the above with intent to deliver or sell = Up to $5,000 fine and no more than 2 years’ incarceration
  • Adult delivering to minor under 18 years old = Up to $5,000 fine and no more than 5 years’ incarceration

Growing and Manufacturing Marijuana in Rhode Island

The penalties for manufacturing or growing cannabis in Rhode Island are the same as those for selling and cultivating marijuana in this state. See “Selling Marijuana in Rhode Island” section for details.

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Rhode Island Hemp Law

In 2016, the state passed a Hemp Law under House Bill 8232, creating the Hemp Growth Act. This allows lawmakers to treat it as an agricultural product so it can be legally distributed, possessed, produced and commercially traded. Under the Department of Business Regulation, the state’s higher education institutions may be authorized to handle, grow or assist in handling or growing hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes.

Medical Marijuana

Home cultivation of medical cannabis is allowed in Rhode Island only if the grower is an active patient in the state’s medical marijuana program. These patients may grow up to 12 seedlings and 12 plants at one time. All crops must be grown in a single location and stored within an indoor facility.

Cooperatives are allowed – Two or more qualifying patients may grow cannabis cooperatively under the following restrictions

  • Residential co-ops – Can grow no more than 48 seedlings, 48 mature plants, 10 ounces of usable cannabis at one time
  • Non-residential co-ops – Can grow no more than 24 seedlings, 24 mature plants, 10 ounces of usable cannabis at one time

Using Marijuana inRhode Island

Only qualifying patients participating in the state’s medical cannabis program are allowed to use marijuana in Rhode Island. Each patient must receive a recommendation from a physician certifying the patient suffers from one or more of the following debilitating, chronic medical conditions:

Using Marijuana – Image powered by Cannabis-special.com
  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Hepatitis C
  • Debilitating or chronic medical condition, treatment of or disease which causes one or more of the following:
  • Severe, debilitating nausea
  • Wasting syndrome or cachexia
  • Chronic, debilitating, severe pain
  • Epilepsy and other seizure related conditions
  • Persistent, severe muscle spasms
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease

PTSD Patients

Patients under 18 years may qualify for the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana program under the medical conditions above. However, those qualifying due to PTSD must be at least 18 years of age.

Hospice Patients

Patients who qualify for hospice care in Rhode Island must obtain a written statement certifying this from their physicians. These patients and their caregivers will receive a Medical Marijuana Card, upon verification, within 72 hours of applying. These applicants’ registration fees will be waived.

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Chemotherapy Patients

In the State of Rhode Island, chemotherapy patients applying for the medical cannabis program are given priority. The patient’s physician must submit a written statement certifying eligibility for chemotherapy. These applicants will receive their registry identification cards within five days if approved.

Out of State Patients

Medical marijuana patients visiting Rhode Island from other states may not obtain products from RI Compassion Centers. They are not allowed to appoint caregivers to obtain cannabis for them. However, these patients are protected by state law if they possess less than 2 ½ ounces obtained from another state. These patients must possess valid medical cannabis licenses from their states.

Click here for info on becoming a medical cannabis patient in Rhode Island.

Breaking the Marijuana Laws in Rhode Island

If convicted of a crime with a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge may not impose less than this minimum amount during sentencing. No parole will be granted until at least this amount of jail time is complete.

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Tax Stamp Law

Rhode Island’s Tax Stamp Law requires anyone obtaining cannabis from other than dispensaries to purchase a stamp from the state. It must be affixed to the contraband at all times. The tax stamp rate is $3.50 per gram if over 42 ½ grams. Nonpayment penalties include up to $10,000 fine and/or up to 5 years’ incarceration, plus 200% of the tax rate.

Marijuana legislation can be complicated, but Jenny Bloom is always up for the task. Although not a lawyer, her experience as a reporter and PR specialist helps her understand legalese – especially when it relates to growing marijuana. A passionate supporter of legalization and home... [read more]


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