When The Rhode Island Cannabis Act was enacted on May 25, 2022, Rhode Island became the 19th U.S. state to legalize the possession, growing, and sale of small amounts of cannabis for recreational purposes.

This effectively decriminalized adult-use cannabis and opened the door for adults aged 21 or over to legally possess or purchase cannabis in the state, as well as for businesses to apply for Rhode Island cannabis business licenses.

Is Cannabis Legal in Rhode Island?

Cannabis state laws vary across the states that have legalized it but here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the legality of cannabis in Rhode Island…

How much cannabis is it legal to possess and grow in Rhode Island?

Adults over the age of 21 can possess up to one ounce of cannabis on their person and up to ten ounces in their homes. It’s also legal to transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another adult aged 21 or older.

You can legally grow up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants in your home (a total of six plants).

Can you smoke cannabis in public in Rhode Island?

You cannot smoke or vape cannabis in public places that prohibit smoking or vaping tobacco. Local municipalities may also ban the activity in additional places under their control.

Where can I buy cannabis legally in Rhode Island?

Starting at the end of 2022, adults in Rhode Island were able to purchase cannabis from one of five dispensaries across the state. An additional 28 dispensaries were scheduled to open across Rhode Island in 2023.

Almost 70 existing medical cannabis cultivators are permitted to sell products to adult-use cannabis businesses, a number that is set to grow.

If I possess over the legal amount, can I go to jail?

Yes, but because cannabis possession has been decriminalized in Rhode Island, adults over the age of 21 will not be liable for a criminal charge if they are caught in possession of between one and two ounces of cannabis on their person outside their homes.

Instead, they will be guilty of a civil offense and liable for a fine — as will a person aged 17 to 20 who possesses less than two ounces of cannabis.

However, failure to provide police with valid ID can lead to an arrest and a criminal charge. You are also likely to face a hefty jail term if caught in possession of 1 to 5 kg of cannabis, which remains a felony with a possible sentence of 10 to 50 years.

What happens to past criminal records in connection with cannabis?

Because of the decriminalization of cannabis in Rhode Island,  any civil violation or criminal conviction (including a nolo plea) on your record for a possession offense that has now been decriminalized can be expunged at no cost.

Most simple cases have already been expunged. The Rhode Island courts will expunge records from more complex cases by July 1, 2024, but you may still have time to apply for an expedited expungement if you petition the court.

What are my employee rights if I use cannabis?

One major concern for cannabis users, even now it has been decriminalized in Rhode Island, is whether employers can still take action against it.

Generally speaking, employers can no longer discipline or terminate an employee based on off-duty cannabis usage. However, being under the influence of cannabis at work may still be a dismissible offense.

In some occupations and some situations (like with collective bargaining agreements), private cannabis usage may not be tolerated by employers. It may be stipulated, for instance, that employees should not use cannabis 24 hours before working in situations that are “hazardous, dangerous or essential to public safety and welfare.” This includes operating heavy machinery, driving or in public safety/first responder jobs.

Random drug testing without reasonable suspicion generally remains prohibited in Rhode Island workplaces, except in safety-sensitive occupations that are federally regulated.

Can cannabis usage affect my parental rights in R.I.?

Parental rights, such as custody and visitation rights, are generally unaffected by a mother or father’s cannabis usage in Rhode Island, absent clear evidence that there is “an unreasonable danger to the safety of a minor child.”

Can a past criminal record exclude me from working in the cannabis industry?

The cannabis industry in Rhode Island presents some exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs and employees keen to work in the industry.

Unless you have a criminal history that is “substantially related to the occupation” for which a license or employment is being sought (i.e., cannabis possession, cultivation or sale), a criminal record should not preclude employment in the cannabis industry.

Does cannabis usage affect my access to medical care?

No, cannabis usage does not disqualify you from “any needed medical procedure or treatment, including organ and tissue transplants.”

Medical cannabis, which has been legal in Rhode Island since 2006, should be easier and cheaper to acquire for people who rely on such medications following the legalization of adult-use cannabis.

Can I possess and smoke cannabis if I rent?

This is between you and your landlord if you live in private accommodation but cannabis usage is prohibited in any public housing governed by federal rules.

Who regulates the cannabis industry in Rhode Island?

Industry oversight and regulation, including the review of cannabis business license applications, is performed by the Cannabis Control Commission in Rhode Island.

The governor appointed three nominees to head the Commission in mid-2023 with the task of creating a social equity policy and issuing cannabis retail businesses licenses.

For informed legal advice about cannabis businesses in Rhode Island, call 866-329-0729 for a consultation at Cannabis Law Solutions.


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