Rhode Island has quite an interesting relationship with marijuana. The state banned the sale of pot as early as 1918 and up to 2012 it had some of the strictest mandatory minimums for large-scale cannabis possession in the US. There were also numerous attempts to introduce bills to legalize recreational weed in the Ocean State since 2011, but not one came to fruition. But since 2006, medical marijuana has been legal in the state and a cannabis dispensary system was even introduced two years after, making it the second in the US just after California. In addition to this, there’s also a religious sect called the Healing Church in Rhode Island that uses cannabis in its rituals. Because of this, the church has had a number of run in’s with the law over the years.
It’s safe to say that Rhode Island is on its way to legalizing recreational use and it may even happen this year. During the last few years, the current governor of Rhode Island has shown support for the legalization of adult-use marijuana. According to Gov. Gina Raimondo, the state’s hand is already being forced by its neighbors in terms of marijuana reform. However, the governor’s marijuana legalization proposal is somewhat unconventional since it will be centered on state-owned stores operated by private contractors.
On the other hand, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said this month that he has already begun working on a legalization plan with Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Sen. Joshua Miller who are in charge of working out the details for a cannabis bill for this year’s legislative season. The Democratic lawmakers are reportedly going with a model of private retailers as opposed to the state-run plan of Gov. Raimondo.
Whichever model gets chosen, the path of Rhode Island to legalizing adult-use marijuana is clear. However, it is still uncertain as of now whether the legislation will allow home cultivation.
This article was reviewed and updated for 2021.
Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in Rhode Island
For a state where recreational weed is still illegal, Rhode Island marijuana laws are fairly generous when it comes to home cultivation.
- Registered medical marijuana patients and their designated caregivers are allowed to cultivate up to 12 mature plants and 12 immature ones.
- Caregivers may have up to 5 patients under them. However, they can only grow a total of 24 mature plants and 24 immature ones at a single location.
- The plants must bear valid tag certificates purchased from the DBR.
- Patients and caregivers may participate in cooperative cultivation where they can grow in a residential or non-residential location. Up to 24 mature and 24 immature plants can be grown in a residential location and twice that number in a non-residential location.
- Marijuana plants should be cultivated in a locked indoor space away from public view.
As you can see, home cultivation limits under Rhode Island marijuana laws are almost double of that in states like Colorado where recreational weed is legal.
This was last updated in June 2020. We will be updating this guide with new developments that may come out.
Punishments for Violating Rhode Island’s Home Grow Laws
The state is aware that it has one of the highest marijuana use rates of any non-recreational states and even some recreational states. Here are some factors that may have contributed to this:
- The qualifying conditions for medical marijuana are vague and can be easily abused
- It’s difficult for authorities to know who is growing illegally
- The marijuana black market in the state is difficult to regulate
- Possession of less than an ounce of recreational marijuana is only a civil violation punishable by a fine of $150.
Recreational marijuana may be a bit of an open secret in Rhode Island but it’s best not to take the law lightly since heavy penalties are in store for those who violate them.
- Patients and caregivers who go over the cultivation limit automatically lose legal protection and may be subject to arrest and prosecution under the Rhode Island controlled substances act.
- Possession of more than one ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of $200 to $500, or both.
- Cultivation with the intent to distribute under 1kg is a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
History of marijuana in Rhode Island
Rhode Island has historically been tough on recreational marijuana but a bit more accepting of its medical use. The state prohibited cannabis sales without a prescription in 1918, just 4 years after New York issued the first instance of marijuana regulation. Like most other states, it took Rhode Island almost a century before acknowledging the medical benefits of cannabis for patients with debilitation conditions. In 2006, the Ocean State finally legalized medical marijuana by approving The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. 3 years after, Rhode Island also became the second state in the US to introduce a dispensary system right after California.
Even with just the legalization of medical marijuana, Rhode Island already has one of the highest rates of marijuana use in the US. It is very likely that the state will just have to accept that reefer use is here to stay and it is best to just regulate recreational marijuana and profit in the process rather than suppressing it altogether. Given that the incumbent governor has already drawn up plans to legalize recreational marijuana in 2018, approval of a bill may happen within the next two years.
Growing Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island
To grow marijuana legally under Rhode Island marijuana laws, you have to be a resident 21 years and older and registered as a patient or caregiver in the state’s medical marijuana program. Patients must have a qualifying condition and while minors can be registered as patients, they can only consume but not grow. Meanwhile, caregivers have to be designated by their patients in their application. A caregiver may grow for up to 5 patients.
To register, patients need to submit a completed copy of the New Patient Application Form along with the following documents:
- Proof of residency (can be any of the following):
- copy of a RI Driver’s License, RI State ID
- vehicle registration
- voters registration
- correspondence from another state agency with the current date
- a current car insurance bill.
- Valid ID: either an RI Driver’s License or RI State ID.
- A completed Practicioner Written Certification form filled out by an MD, DO, PA, or APRN who is licensed to practice in Rhode Island.
- Minors patients must also fill out the Minor form included in the New Patient Application form.
- In addition to the proof of residency, caregivers must also submit a copy of a National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) background check from a local police department, the Office of the Attorney General, or by appointment with the Rhode Island State Police (401-222-1110)
A patient’s application fee costs $50. This fee can be waived if you can submit a written statement from your doctor that you qualify for hospice. Meanwhile, a caregiver’s application fee costs $100. However, applications fees for both patient and caregiver can be reduced to $25 upon the submission of any of the following:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
- Veterans disability
- Federal railroad disability
The application fees to Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program may be inexpensive but growers also have to pay for plant tags that are required by the DBR. A set that comes with a tag for one mature plant and one seedling costs $25.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Rhode Island
How does Rhode Island’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about growing marijuana in Rhode Island
No, home cultivation of recreational cannabis is still not allowed in Rhode Island.
None. Cultivation of cannabis for recreational purposes at home is currently illegal in Rhode Island.
Yes, registered medical marijuana patients and their designated caregivers are allowed to cultivate their own supply at home.
Rhode Island law allows home growing of up to 12 mature medical cannabis plants and 12 immature ones. Up to 24 mature and 24 immature plants can be grown in a residential location and twice that number in a non-residential location.
On your property, in a locked space where the plants can be kept away from public view.
Patients have to be at least 18 years old to be able to grow medical marijuana at home legally in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island may soon end up as a pot haven once recreational marijuana use gets legalized. It is already one of the best places to grow medical cannabis because of the relatively low cost of registration and higher cultivation limit. At present, Rhode Island marijuana laws allow medical marijuana cardholders to grow a sufficient amount. Even non-cardholders to possess a small amount without the threat of jail time. To stay out of trouble, patients and caregivers only need to keep the following rules in mind at all times:
- Cultivation should take place in a secured indoor area away from public view.
- You must tag your plants in accordance with the Medical Marijuana Plant Tag Certificate Program guidelines.
- Possession of 1kg and up is treated with intent to distribute and charged as a felony.
- Penalties may double when the act is within 300 yards of a school.