Is Weed Legal in Rhode Island?

Is Recreational Marijuana Legal in Rhode Island? Is Medicinal Marijuana Legal in Rhode Island? What about CBD and Hemp?

Rhode Island, located in the New England region of the United States, is a small but highly populated state. Paying reference to its vast bays and inlets, Rhode Island is nicknamed 'The Ocean State'. Home to beachy towns and large cities, Rhode Island is known as a beacon for leisure.

Historically, Rhode Island has been dominated by the Rhode Island Democratic Party since the Great Depression. According to the The Intercept, "Rhode Island's Democratic Party leadership is famous for its corruption", prompting insurgence from far-left parties, who laid the framework for progressive politics that is now present in the Rhode Island parliament. The recent inclusion of progressive parties in Rhode Island can be attributed to the work of grassroots organizations such as The Working Families Party and the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, who endorsed candidates that went on to beat Democratic incumbents.

With more left-leaning politics than ever before, Rhode Island may promise the progressive marijuana policy in the near future, but the real question is, is weed legal in Rhode Island?

Is recreational cannabis legal in Rhode Island?

No… not yet!

Rhode Island has decriminalized possession of marijuana in small amounts, for citizens above the age of 18. People in possession of less than 1 ounce are subject to a $150 fine, with no possibility of incarceration or a criminal record. If you are given three citations within an 18 month period, you may be charged with a misdemeanor.

However, possession of more than 1 ounce and less than 1 kilogram is a misdemeanor, and possession of larger amounts is classified as 'intent to distribute', which is a felony under Rhode Island Law. If you are a minor and caught with cannabis, you must appear before a family caught and be evaluated for substance misuse disorder, as well as ultimately paying the $150 fine.

But, there is hope!

In January, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo introduced her annual budget bill, which included Article 13: 'Adult Use Marjijuana Act'. The bill proposed the legalization of possession and purchase of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over, with up to five ounces permitted to be possessed within the home. The bill also included a system for controlling the substance, such as fining those who smoked in public or practiced home cultivation. Raimondo's proposed bill aimed to fill a $20 million budget deficit. However, the leaders of the General Assembly dismissed the prospect of passing this bill in 2020.

Although 2020 is not the year for the legalization of marijuana, the "progressive infrastructure that powered [the] wins" of politicians such as Raimondo will continue to include a politics that moves towards the acceptance of cannabis as a widely used and recreational substance.

Is Medicinal Marijuana legal in Rhode Island?

Yes!

Medical marijuana has been legal in Rhode Island since January 3rd 2006, and has made significant leaps of reform since its legalization. As it stands, patients with severe medical conditions, qualified by the approved list of disorders, are allowed to register with the state and legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The law also allows for the cultivation of up to 12 plants and 12 seedlings for patients and caregivers. Currently, there are three medical marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island and the law allows up to nine dispensaries.

Medical marijuana is already the law of Rhode Island. We've already established that it works in treating certain conditions.Senator Stephen Archambault, to Providence Journal

In 2016, Governor Gina Raimondo signed a law that expanded the medical marijuana list of approved conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and in 2018, the Department of Health announced that Rhode Islanders can treat autism with medical marijuana, subject to prescription.

Representative Scott Slater, a key lobbyist for the inclusion of PTSD as a 'debilitating medical condition' pursuant to the medical marijuana legislation, celebrated the expansion of the medical marijuana treatment list by telling Providence Journal "Governor's office just informed me that the Gov signed my bill allowing PTSD as a qualifying condition for Medical Marijuana. Thank you to all who testified, advocated, and fought to pass this legislation. Glad to help so many patients who suffer from PTSD!″

There has also been significant lobbying to introduce reforms to the medical marijuana program by the grassroots group Medical Marijuana Patients Coalition. Their proposed reforms would create a hardship program that aims to reduce the cost of medical marijuana for patients on a low income. The proposal also suggests a dramatic reduction of licensing fees for dispensaries, called 'compassion centers' in Rhode Island, and the removal of the ban on convicted drug felons from owning or operating medical marijuana businesses.

Rhode Island Department of Health currently estimates that there are 18,728 registered patients with severe and debilitating illnesses using medical marijuana as a treatment method in Rhode Island. According to the 2019 Medical Marijuana Program Annual Report to the Rhode Island General Assembly, the majority of these registered patients (61.95%) qualified on the basis of Severe Debilitating Chronic Pain.

The use of marijuana to treat medical conditions in Rhode Island has a long history and is making strides to campaign for those with debilitating illnesses previously unrecognized my medical marijuana legislation.

Is CBD legal in Rhode Island?

Yes!

Pursuant to the Hemp Growth Act – H 8232 Substitute A, 2016 – Hemp Farming, distribution, and the sale of CBD derived products is legal in Rhode Island. The Act, in section 8(1) states "the cannabis Sativa plant used for the production of hemp is separate and distinct 9 from forms of cannabis used to produce marijuana". The Act also reinforces the versatility of Hemp and its wide usage in the state.

In Rhode Island, the Department of Business Regulation is responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and policy of hemp growth and processing. The Department is also delegated the task of authorizing higher education institutions in Rhode Island to grow and handle industrial hemp for agricultural and academic research.

2019 marked Rhode Island's first harvest in more than 50 years of CBD-rich hemp, with farmers such as Dawson Hodgson capitalising on the lucrative hemp and CBD industry. Hodgson told reporter Tom Mooney, he was excited "to be on the leading edge of growing this new agricultural product," bringing hemp farming to the forefront of agricultural industries in Rhode Island.

Hemp is a growing and lucrative industry that makes space for farmers looking to either expand their product market or capitalize on a new and growing product pool.

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Mikayla Chadwick
Mikayla Chadwick

Mikayla Chadwick is a Melbourne-based writer, focused on human and legal rights, global affairs and popular culture. Mikayla holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree and is currently completing a research degree in sex work policy reform.

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