Cannabis cultivation is legal in Bristol County, with certain limitations. The medical use of cannabis was legalized in 2006 through the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. Recreational adult use of cannabis for people aged 21 and older was legalized in May 2022 through the Rhode Island Cannabis Act. On November 9, 2022, however, a referendum was held that allowed residents of Rhode Island cities and towns to either accept or reject the presence of adult recreational use cannabis cultivation within their territories. In Bristol County, the towns of Bristol and Warren accepted while the town of Barrington rejected these.
Under the Medical Marijuana Act, regulations for medical marijuana cultivator license applications and where these facilities may be located are issued by the Department of Business Regulation. According to Section 21-28.6-16, a medical marijuana cultivator license authorizes the holder to buy, own, grow, process, and deliver or transfer medical cannabis to licensed medical marijuana cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries or compassion centers.
Licensed medical marijuana cultivators may only have one facility and this must be registered not only with the Department of Business Regulation but also with the Department of Public Safety. The Department of Business Regulation and the Department of Health will inspect licensed medical marijuana cultivator facilities within reasonable grounds to ensure that regulations are being complied with.
Registered medical marijuana cardholders, either patients or caregivers, are not qualified for the medical marijuana cultivator license. Two or more of them may, however, apply to the Department of Business Regulation together for a cooperative cultivation license.
Under the cooperative cultivation license, the qualifying medical marijuana cardholders can collaborate in growing medical cannabis in only one location, whether residential or non-residential. Multiple cooperatives are not allowed to use the same facility and location.
The cooperative cultivation must be kept out of sight of the public. The facility must prominently display a written and signed acceptance of the limitations on the right to use and possess medical marijuana in Rhode Island.
If the cooperative cultivation is in a residential location, the limit is 24 seedlings and 24 mature marijuana plants plus the amount of wet marijuana allowed by the Department of Health and Department of Health Business Regulation. There can be no more than 10 ounces of dried cannabis or the equivalent.
If the cooperative cultivation is in a non-residential location, the limit goes up to 48 seedlings and 48 mature marijuana plants in addition to the amount of wet marijuana allowed by the Department of Health and Department of Health Business Regulation. There is still a cap of 10 ounces of dried cannabis or the equivalent.
Under the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, only previously licensed medical marijuana cultivators are qualified to apply for a hybrid cultivator license from the Department of Business Regulation. All regulations that govern medical marijuana cultivation also apply to hybrid cultivation. At the cultivation level, cannabis plants need not be separated according to medical use or recreational use.
The Rhode Island Cannabis Act also allows adults aged 21 and older to cultivate marijuana for personal use only at home, with a limit of three immature plants and three mature plants regardless of how many adults reside in the home. Each resident, however, is allowed to have up to 10 ounces of dried cannabis in the home. To ensure that home growers do not go beyond the limit, they are allowed to give away up to one ounce of cannabis to another adult aged 21 and older provided this is without any remuneration and such activity is not publicly promoted or advertised. Home growers must also comply with all other regulations set forth by the Cannabis Control Commission, including security measures.
Cannabis manufacturing is legal in Bristol County as stipulated in the 2022 Rhode Island Cannabis Act and the earlier Medical Marijuana Act. With the November 2022 referendum, though, the towns of Bristol and Warren in Bristol County expressed acceptance of the presence of cannabis manufacturing businesses within their territories while the town of Barrington chose to reject these.
The Rhode Island Cannabis Act prohibits cannabis cultivator license holders from getting a cannabis manufacturer license from the Cannabis Control Commission. A cannabis product manufacturer, processor, or wholesaler license authorizes the holder to purchase cannabis from licensed cultivators and prepare products out of these. They can only sell to other licensed manufacturers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, or dispensaries.
The requirements for a cannabis product manufacturer, processor, or wholesaler license include the following, among others:
Present proof of residency in Rhode Island and be aged 21 or older.
Complete the application process with the Cannabis Control Commission.
Pass the background investigation of the Cannabis Control Commission regarding any criminal history and other matters.
Present proof of compliance with all Division of Taxation requirements in tax filing and payments.
Pay the required application fee.
Pay the required annual license fee.
All products of the licensed cannabis product manufacturer, processor, or wholesaler must be tested by a cannabis testing laboratory before they can be sold.
All packaging and labeling requirements under the Medical Marijuana Act also apply to recreational adult-use cannabis products. In addition, all recreational adult-use cannabis products intended for eventual retail sale must have the following warnings on the package:
“Warning: This product contains marijuana. Store in a securely locked cabinet away from children.”
“Warning: It is unlawful to transport this product outside of Rhode Island.”
The packaging of recreational adult-use cannabis products meant to be vaporized or smoked must display the following warnings:
“Warning: Smoking and Vaping is hazardous to your health.”
“Warning: Vaping can expose you to toxic chemicals that may lead to death.”
Recreational adult-use cannabis-infused products must have the following warning in larger or bold font on the package: “Effects of this product may be delayed by 3 or more hours.”
Recreational adult-use cannabis products that are topical must have the following warning on the package: “For Topical Application – Do Not Eat or Smoke.”
When producing edible cannabis products, licensed cannabis product manufacturers must ensure that every serving does not contain more than 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and that every package does not contain more than 100 mg of THC.
Cannabis retail is legal in Bristol County pursuant to the 2022 Rhode Island Cannabis Act and the Medical Marijuana Act that was passed much earlier. However, only the towns of Bristol and Warren gave approval for the entry of cannabis retail businesses during the November 2022 referendum. The town of Barrington is not allowing them in.
Existing licensed compassion centers under the Medical Marijuana Act are non-profit organizations authorized to purchase, own, grow, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply, and dispense medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to patients who are registered medical marijuana cardholders.
Under the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, licensed compassion centers can apply to the Department of Business Regulation for a license to become hybrid retailers and also sell recreational adult-use cannabis to people aged 21 and older. They must pay a $125,000 hybrid cannabis retailer fee.
A licensed hybrid retailer is mandated to do the following:
Ensure that its compassion center license remains current and in good standing;
Ensure that the selling of recreational adult-use cannabis will not be detrimental to the needs of the patients under the Medical Marijuana Program; and
Display prominently its certificate of authorization.
In addition to the hybrid cannabis retailers, 24 cannabis retail sales licenses may be granted by the Cannabis Control Commission. To qualify, applicants must:
Complete the license application process of the Cannabis Control Commission.
Present proof of Rhode Island residency and being aged 21 or older.
Pass the Cannabis Control Commission’s background investigation on criminal history and other issues.
Present proof of filing and paying taxes as required by the Division of Taxation.
Pay the required fees, including the application fee and annual license fee.
Licensed hybrid and non-hybrid retailers are authorized to sell cannabis and cannabis products such as oils, tinctures, ointments, edibles, beverages, cannabis products for smoking, cannabis products for vaporization, and topical products.
Adult consumers aged 21 and older may purchase edible products with a maximum of 10 mg of THC per serving or 100 mg of THC per package. Any ingestible products that exceed this content can only be sold to medical marijuana cardholders.
Adult consumers aged 21 and older may purchase and carry up to one ounce of cannabis or up to five grams of cannabis concentrate.
Yes, cannabis delivery is legal in Bristol County under the Medical Marijuana Act but only as home deliveries by compassion centers to patients who are medical marijuana cardholders. The delivery may also be made to any healthcare facility, treatment center, or hospice if the patient is confined there and if the facility approves. Deliveries can only be made from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
All medical cannabis purchases for home delivery must be paid for in advance. Payments are not allowed during delivery.
Licensed hybrid retailers are not allowed to deliver cannabis purchases to non-patients. Licensed cannabis cultivators and manufacturers are not allowed to sell or deliver cannabis directly to consumers. They are, however, allowed to deliver the cannabis they sell or purchase from each other.
Bristol County residents must be diagnosed with one of these qualifying medical conditions to be able to apply for a medical marijuana card under the Medical Marijuana Program:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Any debilitating or chronic disease or treatment that causes at least one of the following: \
Wasting Syndrome or Cachexia
Severe, debilitating, chronic pain
Agitation from Alzheimer's Disease
Seizures, such as those from epilepsy
Severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as those from Crohn's disease or multiple sclerosis
To apply, the patient must download and complete the Medical Marijuana Patient Application Form. The pages include the Practitioner Form which a certifying physician must complete and sign. The pages also include applications for a person who will be in charge of a patient who is a minor, a caregiver, and an authorized purchaser.
A caregiver is allowed to have as many as five patients and can grow medical marijuana in collaboration with each patient. An authorized purchaser is allowed only one patient and can only make purchases for the patient.
The original copy of the completed form and all required inclusions must be mailed to:
Rhode Island Center for Professional Licensing
Room 105A - 3 Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908-5097
Required inclusions are:
Proof of residency through a copy of a Rhode Island driver’s license or State ID since either one is also required once called in for the medical marijuana ID’s photo session;
The Practitioner Form;
Money order or check for $50 payable to the Rhode Island General Treasury as the non-refundable application fee
Patients certified by their physician through a written statement to be eligible for hospice care or undergoing chemotherapy need not pay the application fee.
Patients pay only $25 if they can include verification of being a recipient of Social Security Disability Income, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Veterans’ Disability benefit, or Federal Railroad Disability benefit.
For further information, the public may contact:
Rhode Island Department of Health
3 Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908
After Hours Phone: 401-276-8046
Under the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, taxes imposed on recreational adult-use cannabis include a 10% state excise tax, a 7% sales tax, and a 3% local tax that goes to the municipality where the sale occurred. All licensing fees for cannabis are funneled into the social equity fund. Hence, Bristol County is set to benefit from recreational adult-use cannabis sales.
The 2022 Annual Report of the Medical Marijuana Program states that from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, the Rhode Island Department of Health issued approved registrations for 2,825 patients, 96 caregivers, and 144 authorized purchasers.
The Department of Business Regulation’s data shows that in October 2022, sales of cultivators to compassion centers totaled $755,385. Retail sales during the month exceeded $4.6 million.
Medical cannabis was legalized in Rhode Island in 2006 while recreational adult-use cannabis was legalized on May 25, 2022. On the FBI crime database, there is no data for Bristol County as a whole but the Bristol Police Department for the town of Bristol reports that in 2005 there were 80 arrests for drug abuse violations and 72 arrests for DUI. In 2021, arrests for drug abuse violations dropped to four while DUI arrests decreased to 26.