Is Medical-Only Weed Legal in Rhode Island?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
September 6, 2021
Rhode Island Cannabis Legality
Rhode Island Cannabis Legality

In Rhode Island, recreational marijuana remains illegal.  On the flip side, medical weed is legal throughout Little Rhody. In fact, residents from areas like Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick, Woonsocket, or even Cranston can sign up with the state’s medical marijuana program to purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries.  Only if, however, they have a qualifying condition as determined by the state.

History of Weed Laws

In January of 2006, Rhode Island legislature overrode the veto of Governor Carcieri in order to pass the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, or S0710. This stablished the state’s medical marijuana program managed by the Department of Health and the Department of Business Regulation.  The Department of Health manages patient and caregiver applications, while the Department of Business Regulation oversees dispensaries and other businesses that play a role in the state’s medical marijuana program. 

In 2009, compassion centers were legally established, acting as state-licensed dispensaries from which approved medical marijuana patients in RI could purchase cannabis.

Where Can a Person Legally Purchase Weed in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island permits approved medical patients and caregivers to purchase marijuana from state-licensed compassion centers and can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every 15 days.  Delivery services are prohibited in Rhode Island. Meaning, medical patients or their caregivers must visit a dispensary to make purchases, as products are not delivered to homes.  Compassion centers are tax-exempt, which therefore applies to patients as well.

Where Can Cannabis Legally Be Used?

Cannabis can only legally be consumed on private property, as it is illegal to consume in public.  It is illegal to smoke or vape cannabis in an area in which tobacco smoking is illegal.  Driving a car or riding a bicycle while under the influence of marijuana can result in criminal charges, and consumption inside of a vehicle is strictly prohibited, whether a driver or a passenger.

Possession Laws

Residents approved by the state’s medical marijuana program can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or any combination of cannabis products at any given time.  Those who are not medically authorized to purchase cannabis are subject to a $150 fine if caught with an ounce or less of cannabis for a first-time offense.

Can Residents Grow Their Own?

Rhode Island recognizes the right for patients to grow their own cannabis on private property.  The law states that qualified patients and approved caregivers can grow 12 mature plants and 12 seedlings at any given time.  Patients and caregivers must register with the state in order to be authorized permission to grow and must place state-provided medical marijuana plant tags on each plant, at a cost of $25 each per pair of plants.

Caregivers may grow cannabis for up to 5 patients at a time and possess up to 24 mature plants and 24 seedlings. 

The state has authorized medical marijuana cultivation co-ops for patients and caregivers unable to grow on their own properties.  Any residential cooperative managed by two or more patients can possess up to 24 mature plants and 24 seedlings.  If it is a non-residential cooperative, up to 48 mature plants and 48 seedlings are permitted. 

Medical Marijuana

The state’s medical marijuana program is managed by the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program, and all applications go through them.  Adult patients and minors can apply, although minors require a parent or legal guardian to apply on their behalf.  A patient must be diagnosed with a qualifying condition in order to be eligible.

Qualifying Conditions:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer or cancer treatment
  • Glaucoma or glaucoma treatment
  • Hepatitis C or treatment for hepatitis C
  • Seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe, debilitating, or chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease
  • Agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (for patients 18 or older)

Patient Qualifications:

A patient must have been diagnosed with one of the above conditions in order to qualify, and also needs to provide written certification from their doctor.

How to Register for Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island

Before you apply, you must have a doctor’s written certification that will be provided during the application process.  Then, you can fill out the application provided by the Department of Health and provide your state-issued ID to prove residency.  There is a $50 application fee.

Qualifying as a Caregiver

Patients there can designate a caregiver, who must be at least 21 years of age, and must complete a background check.  Minors who wish to apply for medical marijuana can only designate a parent or legal guardian as their caregiver.  Up to one caregiver is permitted per patient.

Registering as a Caregiver

A patient can register for a caregiver on their application process, which will then require that the caregiver fill out an application form in order to receive a medical marijuana card that authorizes them to make purchases.

Reciprocity Laws

RI has recently established reciprocity laws that permit any out-of-state medical marijuana patient to make purchases from Rhode Island compassion centers.  This means that anyone visiting Rhode Island who has a medical card issued by their own state can access cannabis while in Rhode Island.


Rhode Island requires that all cannabis sold in the state first undergoes a strict lab-testing process for safety.  State-licensed independent labs must test for cannabinoids, potency, heavy metals, microbes, pesticides, residual solvents, and water activity.