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Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Laws

Criminal Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.

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Like many other states, Rhode Island marijuana laws are continuously evolving. While these changes can be seen as positive steps, the law itself can be confusing and lead to legal trouble when misunderstood. Words like medicinal use, decriminalization, and legalization often get thrown around in the wrong context or applied in the wrong way, resulting in arrests, fines, or other penalties. If you’ve been arrested in Rhode Island for possession of marijuana, it’s important to have a criminal defense attorney who specializes in Rhode Island cannabis law.

Only a RI criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience in cannabis law, medical marijuana law, and other marijuana possession cases can guide you through this legal matter and produce the best possible results.

Rhode Island Marijuana Criminal Defense Attorney

S. Joshua Macktaz, Esquire is a criminal defense attorney who knows the Rhode Island marijuana law inside and out. He can help you understand your charges, assess your case, negotiate on your behalf, and ensure that your rights are protected. Criminal defense lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz understands people who are arrested and charged with marijuana possession need legal guidance and support, not severe penalties, expensive fines, or convictions on a public record. Contact the Rhode Island Marijuana Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esquire today to learn more about how he can help you beat any Rhode Island marijuana possession charge.

Understanding Rhode Island Marijuana Law

In order to know how the Rhode Island marijuana law works, it’s important to understand common legal terms that are applied to marijuana possession and medical marijuana. Cannabis laws are constantly changing all over the country. Understanding what these terms mean doesn’t only help you navigate Rhode Island’s marijuana law, but it also helps you gain an understanding of how other states handle legal marijuana and medical marijuana laws. 

Rhode Island is a state which has decriminalized marijuana, passed medical marijuana legislation, and has begun to discuss the possibility of legalizing cannabis in the near future. Let’s explore what these terms mean for Rhode Island residents: 

Decriminalization

In 2013, Rhode Island lawmakers decriminalized marijuana possession. Decriminalization means that instead of serving time in prison for small amounts of cannabis possession, first-time offenders would receive a civil penalty, much like a traffic ticket. Possession of an ounce or less of cannabis can result in a citation of $150 for the first offense, and is handled at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. Three or more offenses of less than an ounce of marijuana possession within an 18-month period can result in a misdemeanor, and would be handled in the Rhode Island District Court. Minors facing possession citations may have to appear before a judge in the Rhode Island family Court, attend a substance abuse program, and/or pay fines. 

Medical Marijuana

The Rhode Island Department of Health states that “modern medical research has discovered beneficial uses for marijuana in treating or alleviating pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with certain debilitating medical conditions, as found by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine in March 1999.” This evidence has led to the passing of the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act, which allows for medical use and cultivation of marijuana under certain circumstances. Medical marijuana has been approved for 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
  • autism
  • 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
    • severe nausea
    • seizures, including but not limited to those characteristics of epilepsy
    • severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristics of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease
    • agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease

If you plan on using marijuana as a medical resource, you must go through the proper channels to register as a medical marijuana patient. Once you’re registered, you’re legally allowed to purchase medical marijuana products from state-licensed dispensaries. Registered patients may also appoint a caregiver to purchase and/or cultivate medical marijuana on their behalf. Medical marijuana patients and their caregivers are permitted to cultivate up to 12 immature, non-flowering marijuana plants, and up to 12 mature, flowering plants. Each plant must possess a valid “tag” issued by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.

Legalization

Rhode Island HAS NOT YET LEGALIZED MARIJUANA. In early 2020, Gov. Gina Raimondo introduced legislation to legalize marijuana for adults in the 2020 proposed budget bill. However, due to delays caused by the pandemic, and a need for further clarification of the law, the legal debate on the legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island has been postponed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rhode Island Marijuana Law

Even though the Rhode Island marijuana law is evolving and becoming more lenient and compassionate for patients, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding cannabis, which can lead to legal problems and arrests. Most Rhode Island residents can’t answer simple questions regarding the current medical marijuana law. Because of this confusion, it’s easy to get into trouble with law enforcement. You can still be charged, arrested, and convicted of illegal marijuana possession, despite the advancements in cannabis law. If you’ve faced legal problems due to the possession of marijuana, it’s vital to contact a marijuana defense attorney as soon as possible. 

Here are some frequently asked questions about Rhode Island marijuana law: 

Where does Rhode Island stand on marijuana?

Rhode Island is a state that has been consistently advancing marijuana legislation over the years. It all started back in 2006 when The Rhode Island General Assembly overrode Gov. Donald Carcieri’s veto to enact the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. Soon after that, Rhode Island became one of the first states to research and legislate on the effects of medical marijuana and create “compassion centers” to give patients more access to the drug. Rhode Island cannabis law continued to unfold by introducing decriminalization laws and extending the list of conditions for patients that can receive medical marijuana treatment. Recently, Gov. Gina Raimondo introduced legislation to legalize marijuana for adults in the 2020 proposed budget bill. However, due to delays caused by the pandemic, and a need for further clarification of the law, the legal debate on the legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island has been postponed. It’s important to understand that while there is medical marijuana available to registered patients and marijuana has been decriminalized, it remains ILLEGAL TO CONSUME OR SMOKE MARIJUANA IN RHODE ISLAND for recreational use. If you’d like to learn more about the general laws and conditions of marijuana and medical marijuana in Rhode Island, contact our law office today to speak with a defense attorney.

Will Rhode Island legalize marijuana?

It’s highly possible that Rhode Island will legalize marijuana in the upcoming years. Rhode Island has weighed the economic and legal advantages and disadvantages of introducing marijuana as a recreational option. While many lawmakers believe that this could benefit the state, legalization has not yet been passed. If you are not a medical marijuana patient and you have been arrested for illegal possession of marijuana or cannabis paraphernalia, it’s important to seek legal help as soon as possible. Call our law office today to speak with a marijuana criminal defense attorney. We’re available for a free phone or video consultation.

What is the difference between marijuana decriminalization and marijuana legalization?

Marijuana decriminalization means that instead of serving time in jail for small amounts of cannabis possession, first-time offenders would receive a civil penalty, much like a traffic ticket. Possession of an ounce or less of cannabis can result in a citation of $150 for the first offense. Three or more offenses of less than an ounce of marijuana possession within an 18-month period can result in a misdemeanor. Minors facing possession citations may have to appear before a judge in family court, attend a substance abuse program, and/or pay fines. 

Legalization means that a state has passed laws allowing adults to purchase cannabis for recreational purposes in a controlled market. However, just because states pass the legalization of marijuana, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still face criminal charges for possession of marijuana. Marijuana must be sold, distributed, and purchased through licensed and legal channels. Buying large amounts of marijuana on the street or the “black market” can still result in possession charges or intent to distribute charges. 

It’s critical to understand the differences between decriminalization and legalization of cannabis. While states like Massachusetts have passed the legalization of marijuana, Rhode Island has only decriminalized it. Contact our law office to speak with a marijuana lawyer today to learn more about the differences between decriminalization vs. legalization.

What is the difference between possession of less than an ounce and more than an ounce?

In Rhode Island, if you’re a first-time offender caught with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, it’s considered a civil penalty and will result in a citation and a fine of $150. If this fine is not paid on time, it will continue to increase. Receiving three or more citations within an 18-month period may lead to a misdemeanor charge, in which you can face up to 30 days in jail and be required to pay fines. If you’re caught with more than an ounce of marijuana, it’s considered a criminal charge. You can be arrested and face up to a year in jail as well as be required to pay fines. Regardless if you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense or a civil penalty, it’s important to speak to a criminal defense attorney with experience in marijuana law. A trusted lawyer can assure you that your rights are being protected.

What ailments can be treated with medical cannabis?

Rhode Island has continued to expand the list of conditions that can legally be treated with medical marijuana. The Rhode Island Department of Health cites the following as conditions/ailments that can be treated with medical cannabis: 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, autism, 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, severe nausea, seizures, including but not limited to those characteristics of epilepsy, severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristics of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease, agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Can you have a caregiver or authorized purchaser in Rhode Island?

The rights of medical cannabis patients also extend to primary caregivers as well. This means that a caregiver can legally purchase and/or cultivate medical cannabis on the behalf of a patient. Medical marijuana patients and their registered caregivers are permitted to cultivate up to 12 immature, non-flowering marijuana plants, and up to 12 mature, flowering plants. Each plant must possess a valid “tag” issued by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.

The Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act states the following regarding caregivers: 

“A primary caregiver cardholder, who has in his or her possession a registry identification card, shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for assisting a patient cardholder, to whom he or she is connected through the department of health or department of business regulation’s registration process, with the medical use of medical marijuana; provided, that the primary caregiver cardholder possesses an amount of marijuana that does not exceed twelve (12) mature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana tags, two and one-half (2.5) ounces of usable marijuana, or its equivalent amount, and an amount of wet marijuana set in regulations promulgated by the departments of health and business regulation for each qualified patient cardholder to whom he or she is connected through the department of health’s registration process.”

Do I need to hire a lawyer if I’ve been charged with possession of marijuana in Rhode Island?

Absolutely. Despite the decriminalization of marijuana in Rhode Island, it’s still illegal to purchase and sell marijuana for recreational use. Remember that decriminalization does not mean LEGAL. Being caught with over an ounce of marijuana can lead to a host of criminal charges such as possession, possession with intent to distribute, possession of paraphernalia, and other marijuana-related crimes. Rhode Island still takes marijuana criminal charges seriously. You can face time in jail, expensive fines, and convictions on a public record which can be detrimental to your future. Only a criminal defense attorney with experience in cannabis law can help you avoid the worst penalties and provide the best possible results. Contact the law office of Joshua Macktaz today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.

What is the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act state?

Below you’ll find SECTION 21-28.6-4 of the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act. It’s long and filled with legal jargon, which makes it difficult to understand. If you need further information or clarification on this act, contact our Rhode Island law office to speak with a criminal defense lawyer that specializes in marijuana law.

CHAPTER 21-28.6

The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act

§ 21-28.6-4. Protections for the medical use of marijuana.

(a) A qualifying patient cardholder who has in his or her possession a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, solely for the medical use of medical marijuana; provided that the qualifying patient cardholder possesses an amount of medical marijuana that does not exceed twelve (12) mature marijuana plants and twelve (12) immature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana plant tags, two and one-half ounces (2.5 oz.) of dried medical marijuana, or its equivalent amount which satisfies the requirements of this chapter, and an amount of wet medical marijuana to be set by regulations promulgated by the department of business regulation. The plants shall be stored in an indoor facility. Marijuana plants and the marijuana they produce shall only be grown, stored, manufactured, and processed in accordance with regulations promulgated by the department of business regulation;

(b) An authorized purchaser who has in his or her possession a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the possession of medical marijuana; provided that the authorized purchaser possesses an amount of medical marijuana that does not exceed two and one-half (2.5) ounces of usable marijuana, or its equivalent amount, and this medical marijuana was purchased legally from a compassion center for the use of their designated qualifying patient.

(c) A qualifying patient cardholder, who has in his or her possession a registry identification card, shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for selling, giving, or distributing, on or before December 31, 2016, to a compassion center cardholder, medical marijuana of the type and in an amount not to exceed that set forth in subsection (a) that he or she has cultivated or manufactured pursuant to this chapter.

(d) No school or landlord may refuse to enroll, or lease to, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder. Provided, however, due to the safety and welfare concern for other tenants, the property, and the public, as a whole, a landlord may have the discretion not to lease, or continue to lease, to a cardholder who cultivates, manufactures, processes, smokes, or vaporizes medical marijuana in the leased premises.

(e) No employer may refuse to employ, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder, except:

(1) To the extent employer action is taken with respect to such person’s:

(i) Use or possession of marijuana or being under the influence of marijuana in any workplace;

(ii) Undertaking a task under the influence of marijuana when doing so would constitute negligence or professional malpractice or jeopardize workplace safety;

(iii) Operation, navigation, or actual physical control of any motor vehicle or other transport vehicle, aircraft, motorboat, machinery or equipment, or firearms while under the influence of marijuana; or

(iv) Violation of employment conditions pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement; or

(2) Where the employer is a federal contractor or otherwise subject to federal law such that failure of the employer to take such action against the employee would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing related benefit.

(f) A primary caregiver cardholder, who has in his or her possession a registry identification card, shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for assisting a patient cardholder, to whom he or she is connected through the department of health or department of business regulation’s registration process, with the medical use of medical marijuana; provided, that the primary caregiver cardholder possesses an amount of marijuana that does not exceed twelve (12) mature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana tags, two and one-half (2.5) ounces of usable marijuana, or its equivalent amount, and an amount of wet marijuana set in regulations promulgated by the departments of health and business regulation for each qualified patient cardholder to whom he or she is connected through the department of health’s registration process.

(g) A qualifying patient cardholder shall be allowed to possess a reasonable amount of unusable marijuana, including up to twelve (12) immature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana tags. A primary caregiver cardholder shall be allowed to possess a reasonable amount of unusable marijuana, including up to twenty-four (24) immature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana tags and an amount of wet marijuana set in regulations promulgated by the departments of health and business regulation.

(h) There shall exist a presumption that a cardholder is engaged in the medical use of marijuana if the cardholder:

(1) Is in possession of a registry identification card; and

(2) Is in possession of an amount of marijuana that does not exceed the amount permitted under this chapter. Such presumption may be rebutted by evidence that conduct related to marijuana was not for the purpose of alleviating the qualifying patient’s debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the medical condition.

(i) A primary caregiver cardholder may receive reimbursement for costs associated with assisting a qualifying patient cardholder’s medical use of marijuana. A primary caregiver cardholder may only receive reimbursement for the actual costs of goods, materials, services or utilities for which they have incurred expenses. A primary caregiver may not receive reimbursement or compensation for his or her time, knowledge, or expertise. Compensation shall not constitute sale of controlled substances under state law. The department of business regulation may promulgate regulations for the documentation and tracking of reimbursements and the transfer of medical marijuana between primary caregivers and their registered patients.

(j) A primary caregiver cardholder, who has in his or her possession a registry identification card, shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for selling, giving, or distributing, on or before December 31, 2016, to a compassion center cardholder, marijuana, of the type, and in an amount not to exceed that set forth in subsection (f), if:

(1) The primary caregiver cardholder cultivated the marijuana pursuant to this chapter, not to exceed the limits of subsection (f); and

(2) Each qualifying patient cardholder the primary caregiver cardholder is connected with through the department of health’s registration process has been provided an adequate amount of the marijuana to meet his or her medical needs, not to exceed the limits of subsection (a).

(k) A practitioner shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by the Rhode Island board of medical licensure and discipline, or an employer or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau solely for providing written certifications in accordance with this chapter and regulations promulgated by the department of health, or for otherwise stating that, in the practitioner’s professional opinion, the potential benefits of the medical marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for a patient.

(l) Any interest in, or right to, property that is possessed, owned, or used in connection with the lawful medical use of marijuana, or acts incidental to such use, shall not be forfeited.

(m) No person shall be subject to arrest or prosecution for constructive possession, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, being an accessory, or any other offense, for simply being in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of marijuana as permitted under this chapter, or for assisting a qualifying patient cardholder with using or administering marijuana.

(n) A practitioner, licensed with authority to prescribe drugs pursuant to chapters 34, 37, and 54 of title 5, or pharmacist, licensed under chapter 19.1 of title 5, or certified school nurse teacher, shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by an employer or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau solely for: (1) Discussing the benefits or health risks of medical marijuana or its interaction with other substances with a patient; or

(2) Administering a non-smokable and non-vaporized form of medical marijuana in a school setting to a qualified patient registered in accordance with this chapter.

(o) A qualifying patient or primary caregiver registry identification card, or its equivalent, issued under the laws of another state, U.S. territory, or the District of Columbia, to permit the medical use of marijuana by a patient with a debilitating medical condition, or to permit a person to assist with the medical use of marijuana by a patient with a debilitating medical condition, shall have the same force and effect as a registry identification card.

(p) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (f), no primary caregiver cardholder shall possess an amount of marijuana in excess of twenty-four (24) mature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana tags and five (5) ounces of usable marijuana, or its equivalent, and an amount of wet medical marijuana set in regulations promulgated by the departments of health and business regulation for patient cardholders to whom he or she is connected through the department of health and/or department of business regulation registration process.

(q) A qualifying patient or primary caregiver cardholder may give marijuana to another qualifying patient or primary caregiver cardholder to whom they are not connected by the department’s registration process, provided that no consideration is paid for the marijuana, and that the recipient does not exceed the limits specified in this section.

(r) Qualifying patient cardholders and primary caregiver cardholders electing to grow marijuana shall only grow at one premises, and this premises shall be registered with the department of business regulation. Except for licensed compassion centers, and licensed cooperative cultivations, and licensed cultivators, no more than twenty-four (24) mature marijuana plants that are accompanied by valid medical marijuana tags shall be grown or otherwise located at any one dwelling unit or commercial unit. The number of qualifying patients or primary caregivers residing, owning, renting, growing, or otherwise operating at a dwelling or commercial unit does not affect this limit. The department of business regulation shall promulgate regulations to enforce this provision.

(s) For the purposes of medical care, including organ transplants, a patient cardholder’s authorized use of marijuana shall be considered the equivalent of the authorized use of any other medication used at the direction of a physician, and shall not constitute the use of an illicit substance.

(t) Notwithstanding any other provisions of the general laws, the manufacture of marijuana using a solvent extraction process that includes the use of a compressed, flammable gas as a solvent by a patient cardholder or primary caregiver cardholder shall not be subject to the protections of this chapter.

(u) Notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary, nothing in this chapter or the general laws shall restrict or otherwise affect the manufacturing, distribution, transportation, sale, prescribing, and dispensing of a product that has been approved for marketing as a prescription medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and legally prescribed, nor shall hemp, in accordance with chapter 26 of title 2, be defined as marijuana or marihuana pursuant to this chapter, chapter 28 of this title or elsewhere in the general laws.

History of Section.

(P.L. 2005, ch. 442, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 443, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 72, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 495, § 1; P.L. 2009, ch. 16, § 1; P.L. 2009, ch. 17, § 1; P.L. 2012, ch. 88, § 1; P.L. 2012, ch. 118, § 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 515, § 2; P.L. 2016, ch. 142, art. 14, § 1; P.L. 2018, ch. 47, art. 14, § 1; P.L. 2019, ch. 88, art. 15, § 5.)

Contact the Best Rhode Island Marijuana Lawyer 

If you need an attorney experienced in defending marijuana cases and with full knowledge of the 2021 RI Marijuana Laws call (401) 861-1155 to schedule a free consultation with Rhode Island Marijuana Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq..

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