Rhode Island made its first steps into medical marijuana in 2006, becoming the eleventh state in America to do so. Known as the Edward O. Haskins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, Rhode Island’s successful medical cannabis initiative brought with it the eventual opening of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in 2013.  

While initial sales were delayed, Rhode Island is experiencing a fruitful medical market for both patients and business owners alike. As of May 4, 2018, the state boasted over 18,000 patients and is experiencing a surge in purchases.

Today, Rhode Island serves as a long-standing medical marijuana market. Now, it could be one of three states that could set a definitive tone in how companies address employees with medical cannabis cards. 

Possession

Qualified patients can possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis at any time. They can obtain their medicine via state-licensed dispensaries or cultivating their own.

Patients cultivating their own cannabis are allowed a total of 12 mature plants and 12 seedlings. Each plant must be registered with the state.

Purchasing Limits

Patients are legally allowed to purchase medical cannabis from any state-approved compassion center. Patients are allowed to buy up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis.

Qualifying Patients

Under the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act (pdf), in-state residents can qualify by having one or more of the following medical conditions:

  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or treatment for AIDS
  • Agitation related to Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (added as a qualifying condition in 2018)
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer or cancer treatment including chemotherapy, radiation, etc.
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Glaucoma or glaucoma treatment
  • Hepatitis C or treatment for Hepatitis C
  • Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or treatment for HIV
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)*
  • Severe, debilitating, chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of Multiple sclerosis (MS)

*PTSD only qualifies for patients 18 years of age or older. All other conditions can apply to any applicant. 

Consumption

Medical cannabis consumption is only legally allowed in private residences or locations.

The state prohibits medical cannabis consumption of any kind in the following: 

  • School buses 
  • Public transportation 
  • School grounds 
  • Correctional facilities 
  • Public places 
  • Licensed treatment facilities 
  • In the presence of children where they could face adverse effects 

Driving Under the Influence

Under section 8.1.3 (pdf) of the act's scope, Rhode Island does not permit patients to operate any motor vehicle, aircraft or motorboat while under the influence of medicinal marijuana. Yet, a patient will not immediately be considered under the influence if cannabis is found in their system.

Cultivation

Rhode Island allows for qualified patients to cultivate cannabis at home (pdf). Regulations allow for the person to grow up to 12 plants and 12 seedlings. Each plant must be registered with the state and have an accompanying plant tag. No more than 24 plants can be grown in a single dwelling regardless of the number of registered patients living there.

The applicant must state whether they plan to grow the plant for themselves, and must register with the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation. Patients must also buy plant tags from the Department of Business Regulation and follow the rules listed here.

Reciprocity

As of 2018, Rhode Island accepts out-of-state medical marijuana patient registrations from all states with established medical marijuana programs. Out-of-state patients must show a physical ID from their home state, as well as a physical patient card (or its equivalent) in order to purchase at a state compassion center.

Caregivers

Registered patients are allowed to designate one caregiver and one authorized purchaser. Patients under 18 must appoint a custodial parent or legal guardian as their primary caregiver. To become approved, a caregiver must be at least 21-years-old and can assist up to five qualified patients at any time. 

A primary caregiver can possess up to the equivalent of 12 mature marijuana plants, 2.5 ounces of dried cannabis, or 12.5 ounces of wet marijuana for each cardholder they assist.

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