Rhode Island Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • It is legal to purchase, use, and possess medical and recreational marijuana in Rhode Island
  • A person must be at least 21 years old to possess or consume recreational marijuana legally in the state. On the contrary, qualifying patients aged 18 years or older with approved medical conditions can use marijuana for medical purposes
  • Qualifying marijuana patients under 18 years must designate caregivers to assist them in purchasing and administering medical cannabis products
  • Registered medical marijuana patients can grow up to 12 mature marijuana plants and 12 immature plants at home for personal use. They may also purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis within a 15-day period
  • Adults aged 21 years or older may cultivate up to six marijuana plants with no more than three mature ones at home for private use
  • Municipalities in Rhode Island are allowed to adopt ordinances to regulate cannabis within their jurisdictions

Is Marijuana Legal in Rhode Island?

Marijuana is legal in Rhode Island both for medical and recreational purposes. Rhode Island residents who are 21 years of age or older can purchase up to 1 ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Medical marijuana was legalized in Rhode Island in 2006 with the enactment of the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act.

The Act allows medical marijuana cardholders to cultivate 12 immature marijuana plants and 12 mature ones in their homes or other indoor facilities. In Rhode Island, greenhouses do not qualify as indoor spaces for marijuana cultivation. Cardholders can also access up to 2.5 ounces of dry marijuana no more than once every 15 days. Medical marijuana cardholders in Rhode Island are required to obtain cannabis plant tags for each plant they cultivate.

Rhode Island Marijuana Laws in 2024

In March 2022, the Rhode Island Cannabis Act was passed and signed into law by Governor Daniel McKee. The Act made the possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes legal in Rhode Island. Adult residents of the state who are 21 years of age or older can purchase no more than 1 ounce of marijuana. The law also permits adults to keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home and grow only three mature cannabis plants and only three immature plants. With the passage of the Act, it is equally legal in Rhode Island now to possess no more than 5 grams of cannabis concentrate. An adult in Rhode Island is permitted under the Cannabis Act to transfer no more than 1 ounce of cannabis to another adult.

The Cannabis Act provides for the setting up of a three-member commission to regulate, license, and enforce matters relating to the cannabis industry in Rhode Island. This commission is mandated to work with the Rhode Island Cannabis Advisory Board. Section 12-1.3-5 of the Rhode Island Cannabis Act provides for the expungement of all misdemeanor, felony, or civil violation convictions relating to the possession of marijuana before July 1, 2024. Convictions for the delivery or manufacturing of marijuana are not eligible for expungement. The Rhode Island Cannabis Act made provisions for 24 licenses for the retailing of cannabis. These licenses will be awarded to individuals and business entities located in specific geographical areas of Rhode Island.

The Cannabis Act lists six geographical zones created for the purpose of cannabis retail licenses. Under this eAct, not more than four licenses will be awarded in each given geographical zone. One of these four licenses will be reserved for social equity applicants. The Act describes social equity applicants as individuals who have been adversely and disproportionately affected by the enforcement of now-abrogated marijuana-related laws in Rhode Island. Such individuals include those who were convicted of marijuana-related offenses that did not involve violence or who are related to individuals who were convicted of marijuana-related offenses that did not involve violence. Social equity applicants must also have lived in Rhode Island areas that were adversely affected by now-abrogated marijuana laws for a period of five years. Another license will be specially reserved for workers' cooperative applicants.

Under the provisions of the Cannabis Act, Rhode Island towns and cities are permitted to make their own ordinances regulating the consumption of cannabis in public areas. A Rhode Island town or city is equally permitted to prevent a cannabis cultivation or processing facility from becoming a nuisance to the public. Under the Cannabis Act, Rhode Island towns and cities can disallow licensed medical marijuana centers from converting into retail facilities for recreational cannabis.

The Cannabis Act places a moratorium on the issuance of cannabis cultivator licenses for a two-year period after the cannabis commission releases its final guidelines. According to the Act, cultivator licenses will only be issued to individuals or business entities that adhere to the following preliminary requirements:

  • Providing valid proof that the applying individual is at least 21 years old and a resident of Rhode Island
  • Applying for a cultivator license in the officially required manner
  • Undergoing a mandatory criminal history check
  • Paying the required non-refundable application fee
  • Providing proof that the applicant has fulfilled all outstanding tax obligations to the State of Rhode Island
  • Paying the annual license fee
  • Consenting to regular audits of the cultivation area by officials of the State of Rhode Island

Timeline of Cannabis Laws in Rhode Island

  • 1918: The use and possession of cannabis without a medical prescription was outlawed
  • 2006: The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act was passed into law
  • 2022: The Rhode Island Cannabis Act was passed into law. It legalizes the recreational use of marijuana in the state and provides for the expungement of non-violent marijuana possession convictions

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2024

In April 2022, the Federal House of Representatives introduced HR 3617, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE). Section 11 of the bill seeks for a change in official references to 'marijuana' and 'marihuana' and replaces them with 'cannabis'. The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate.

Section 3 of the MORE seeks to remove cannabis from the list of items in Section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act. Section 10 of the MORE Act permits individuals who received convictions or juvenile adjudications for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to petition for the expungement of their records.Federal district courts may, at their convenience, notify individuals whose legal records have been expunged.

The MORE Act allows American citizens who were arrested, convicted, or adjudicated in juvenile courts, to treat their legal record as having been erased. Such individuals are thereby granted legal immunity from charges of perjury or misrepresentation that may arise from their having made written or oral statements claiming that they have never been convicted of marijuana-related offenses, or for not mentioning their legal history in this regard.

The MORE Act describes exceptions to its provision for expungement. Convicts who were given aggravating role adjustments during their sentencing for federal marijuana-related offenses do not qualify to have their convictions expunged. According to Section 3B1.1(a) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, individuals who had aggravating managerial, supervisory, or leadership roles in criminal conspiracies can have their criminal charges adjusted upwards by several levels. A convict who was the mastermind of a marijuana distribution ring, would, under this provision of the MORE Act, not be eligible for expungement of his or her criminal record.

Can I Use Cannabis in Rhode Island?

Yes. In Rhode Island, cannabis is now legalized for both recreational and medicinal use. However, recreational users of cannabis must be at least 21 years old to be able to legally purchase or possess the product.

Cannabis is the name for a species of herbaceous plants that have a long history of recreational and medicinal use. There are three varieties of cannabis plants: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis plants contain compounds known as cannabinoids, which interact with the body's endocannabinoid system to affect mood, appetite, movement, memory, and thought. The main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Therapeutic formulations are made from the flowers, leaves, and seeds of the cannabis plant.

Patients who suffer from one of the qualifying medical conditions listed by Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Law can legally purchase marijuana for therapeutic use. Medical marijuana cardholders in Rhode Island can designate two caregivers to make purchases on their behalf. If a cardholder ceases to suffer from the chronic illness which necessitated the use of medical marijuana, they no longer qualify to access medical cannabis supplies and could face legal penalties.

How the Legal Sale of Cannabis in Rhode Island Happens

The sale of cannabis in Rhode Island takes place in dispensaries, commonly known as compassion centers in the state. Rhode Island compassion centers are authorized to cultivate marijuana for purchase by medical marijuana patients.

The passage of the Rhode Island Cannabis Act in 2022 paved the way for existing compassion centers to become hybrid cannabis retailers, offering both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana products such as smokable joints, oils, topicals, concentrates, tinctures, distillates, and edibles can only be sold to Rhode Island residents with state-issued Medical Marijuana Card. Residents of Rhode Island cannot order medical marijuana products online. Adult residents of Rhode Island who are 21 years of age or older can now purchase recreational marijuana from hybrid cannabis retailers, provided they remain within the legally allowed limits.

Penalties for Marijuana-Related Crimes in Rhode Island

The following are the punishment for marijuana-related crimes in Rhode Island:


Section 21-28-4.01 of the Cannabis Act provides that any Rhode Island resident found in possession of more than 2 ounces of marijuana or cannabis concentrate in public will face a misdemeanor charge. Medical marijuana patients are exempt from this provision. All other offenders face a prison term of up to one year, and/or a fine not exceeding $500.

A Rhode Island adult of 21 years and above found in possession of a quantity of marijuana or cannabis concentrate above 1 ounce but not up to 2 ounces faces a civil penalty. They also risk a fine of $150 and confiscation of the marijuana or cannabis concentrate. The possession of more than 10 ounces of marijuana or cannabis concentrate in an individual's home attracts a misdemeanor charge. A convicted offender faces a prison term of up to one year and/or a fine of between $200 and $500.

A Rhode Island resident found in possession of marijuana plants above the allowed limit of three mature and three immature ones, but not up to the 25, commits a misdemeanor. Offenders face a prison term of up to one year and/or a fine of between $200 and $500. The possession of 25 growing marijuana plants counts as a felony under the laws of Rhode Island. An offender faces a prison term of up to three years, and/or a fine not exceeding $500.

Possession with intent to Distribute

In Rhode Island, the penalties for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute are as follows:

  • For the possession of between 1- 5 kg, the offender is charged with a felony and faces a prison term of between 10 to 50 years
  • For the possession of more than 5 kg, the offender is charged with a felony and faces a prison term of between 25 years to life imprisonment


In Rhode Island, a conviction for the unlawful cultivation of marijuana attracts the following penalties:

  • For cultivation of less than 1 kg, the offender faces a prison term of up to 30 years and/or a $100,000 fine
  • For cultivation of up to 5 kg, the offender faces a prison term of up to 50 years and/or a $500,000 fine

Marijuana paraphernalia

Section 21-28.5-2 of the Rhode Island Cannabis Act prohibits residents from handling marijuana paraphernalia. Convicted offenders face a penalty of a prison term of up to two years and/or up to a $5,000 fine. A minor who violates this clause will be penalized with a $100 fine, the confiscation of the marijuana paraphernalia, and attend a court-ordered drug awareness program.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Under the provisions of the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, it is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. An individual convicted for the first time of driving under the influence of marijuana in Rhode Island is given a fine ranging from $200 to $500, in addition to serving 60 hours of restitution. The sentencing magistrate can also order that the offender's Rhode Island driving license be suspended for a period ranging from 6 to 12 months. The offender will also be required to attend a court-ordered course on controlled substances and driving.

If an offender is found driving under the influence of marijuana for the second time within a five-year span, they risk a misdemeanor charge and a prison term not exceeding six months. A fine ranging from $600 to $1,000 may also be levied. An offender found driving under the influence of marijuana for the third time within a five-year span will face a misdemeanor charge and a fine ranging between $800 and $1,000. In addition, the offender will serve 100 hours of restitution and will have their driving license withdrawn for between two to five years.

Possible Remedies for Defendants of Violating Rhode Island Marijuana Laws

Individuals charged with violating Rhode Island's marijuana laws can remedy their situation by citing their status as medical marijuana cardholders or caregivers. They may also engage marijuana lawyers for defense.

What is Rhode Island's Cannabis History?

Cannabis was first declared illegal in Rhode Island in 1918 when state authorities banned its use without a doctor's prescription. In 2006, Rhode Island passed a law granting access to medical marijuana. In 2010, the Rhode Island Special Senate Commission to Study the Prohibition of Marijuana noted in its final report that 13 U.S. states had decriminalized marijuana possession at the time. The authors of the report argued that there was an economic rationale for decriminalizing possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana for Rhode Island residents 18 years or older. They also claimed that a change in the statutes would allow the police and other law enforcement agencies to devote their attention to the investigation of graver offenses rather than marijuana possession. In 2022, the legalization of recreational marijuana was legalized with the passage of the Rhode Island Cannabis Act.

What are the Restrictions on Cannabis in Rhode Island?

Although the State of Rhode Island passed the 2022 Cannabis Act legalizing the use and possession of cannabis, there are still certain restrictions on its use. The Cannabis Act specifically prohibits the use of cannabis by personnel responsible for piloting airplanes, motorboats, and vehicles. Cannabis use in Rhode Island is also prohibited in the following circumstances:

  • Within premises or areas where children could be exposed to the adverse health effects of cannabis smoke
  • Within penitentiaries and correctional facilities operated by the State of Rhode Island
  • Within school premises
  • Within any licensed drug treatment facilities in Rhode Island
  • Inside school buses or other forms of transportation used by the public
  • Within public premises or facilities where the consumption of tobacco is forbidden

Section 21-28.11-27.1 of the 2022 Cannabis Act also prohibits any facility where cannabis is sold or processed from granting admittance to individuals under the age of 21. Those exempted from this clause are individuals who are employees of the State of Rhode Island or qualifying medical marijuana patients.

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