Updated on November 19, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
If you live in Rhode Island, you may qualify to apply for a medical cannabis card. That allows patients to try different cannabis products as part of a treatment plan to help manage chronic debilitating symptoms. In Rhode Island, the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program administers all aspects of the state Medical Marijuana Act and all regulations for patients and certifying practitioners.
The legislation to legalize adult-use in Rhode Island passed the Senate in June 2021. State Senator Josh Miller sponsored the legislation. It seems like adult-use (recreational) cannabis will become a reality in Rhode Island. The only thing stopping it right now is determining which administrative branch of the government will run it.
The proposed legislation in Senate Bill 568 planned for as many as 150 dispensary licenses. This has been changed to a maximum of forty recreational dispensary locations in the state. If adult-use is legalized, residents and visitors to Rhode Island who are over the age of twenty-one (21) years will be able to legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis.
Each state has a list of qualifying health conditions that a patient must be diagnosed with to apply for a medical card. In Rhode Island, other states permit a few mental health conditions, which are not included, like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A Rhode Island medical card requires that a patient be formally diagnosed with one (or more than one) of the following health conditions:
A formal diagnosis is required from a primary care provider (PCP). When a patient applies for a Rhode Island medical card, they must provide health records that show the diagnosis. And if the patient received a diagnosis several years prior, an update to their health records will be required to confirm they still have the chronic disease to be eligible.
Rhode Island is one of the few states that have a reciprocal agreement with other jurisdictions. If you are a patient with a medical card visiting Rhode Island, you can present your valid card to purchase cannabis. And enjoy the same legal protection as residents.
The following types of medical cannabis are currently available for patients:
In Rhode Island, vapes are illegal. So are e-cigarettes. If you visit, remember that you will not be able to purchase a vape cartridge at any compassion center.
You must be a legal resident of the state of Rhode Island and eighteen (18) years of age or older to apply for your medical card. If you are under eighteen, you must apply and then designate a caregiver or legal guardian.
Your application is not a guarantee of receiving a medical card. It is subject to the discretion of the physician who conducts your health evaluation. If the physician refers you to the Rhode Island cannabis program, your application is also reviewed.
Suppose you receive approval from the Rhode Island medical marijuana program. In that case, you will successfully be registered as a patient and enjoy the legal protections of using medical cannabis for your health needs.
Yes. Patients are first required to get a physician or practitioner referral (health evaluation) for medical cannabis. After that is received and the doctor approves the patient, the registration process is next.
Unlike other states, Rhode Island requires that the application for medical cannabis be done by mail. You can’t fax or email the information, or it will not be accepted.
You can download the application form on the website and then mail it in with a $50 payment for the registration fee. Individuals on SNAP, Medicaid, or Medicare and military veterans may qualify for a reduced registration fee.
Yes. If you have a child with a debilitating or chronic health condition, it may be possible to register the minor to legally use medical cannabis. Minors are not permitted to purchase cannabis themselves at a compassion center (dispensary).
In Rhode Island, an adult who meets the requirements as a cannabis caregiver may register to assist up to five (5) patients. Caregivers must register as one of two types of support providers with the state:
The caregiver must be a resident of Rhode Island and twenty-one (21) years of age or older. A special application form is required for caregivers to be considered, which includes a criminal record check.
Rhode Island does medical card renewals a little differently. About sixty (60) days before your card expires, you will receive an application form in the mail. This will allow you to renew your Rhode Island registration card.
The form for renewing your Rhode Island registration card must be mailed back with a payment of $50. If your card renewal is declined, the state will notify you within 35-days. All registration cards expire after one year.
If you or a loved one is a patient who has entered hospice care, applications for renewals can be expedited in 72-hours. Consult with your evaluating physician for more information.
In Rhode Island, you cannot request a replacement card online. You must appear to get a new photo (Monday through Friday, 1-3 pm) at a Department of Health service location.
The cost of a replacement registration card in Rhode Island is $10, and payment must be by check or money order. You must have a valid Rhode Island Driver’s License or State ID to present when you request your replacement card in person.
Rhode Island calls dispensaries “Compassion Centers.” The licensed retail locations have an assortment of medical cannabis products for patients. They can also provide expert advice on strains, potencies, and different intake methods for patients.
Rhode Island legalized medical cannabis earlier than many states. It was the eleventh (11th) state, and the legislation was passed in 2005. It was endorsed by the House of Representatives in a landslide 52-10 vote. And again by the Senate with a vote of 33-1 in favor of legalization.
Interestingly, Rhode Island maintained some of the country’s harshest penalties for large volume possession of cannabis. Individuals with more than 5 kilos of cannabis face a twenty (20) year sentence and fines from $25,000 to $100,000.
In 1918, Rhode Island initially banned the sale of cannabis without a prescription. It may have been difficult for patients to acquire, but in some way, it was always an option through prescription for patients with life-threatening or severe diseases and symptoms. Patients with terminal diseases could also petition for access. Along the way to being able to license retail dispensaries, there have been a few standout moments in Rhode Island’s path to legalization.
2009—Seven years after medical cannabis is legalized, Compassion Centers are finally licensed and opened in Rhode Island. This allows patients the opportunity to purchase medical cannabis products and get advice on different strains and potencies for symptom management.
Source Web 2021: safeaccessnow.org
2011—Then Gov. Chaffee suspended the licensing of any new Compassion Centers in Rhode Island after Federal prosecutors issued legal threats to the state. Licensing of Compassion Centers (dispensaries) continued in January 2012, but with limits to how many plants each location can cultivate.
Source Web 2021: health.ri.gov
2016—Patients or caregivers who are licensed to home-grow cannabis are now required to purchase and affix a registration tag. Each plant must have a tag to be legal. Tags are priced at $25 to track and tax each home-grown plant cultivated in Rhode Island.
Source Web 2021: safeaccessnow.org
Rhode Island Department of Health
Licensing Unit – Medical Marijuana Licensing
3 Capitol Hill Room 105A
Providence, RI 02908-5097
Phone: (401) 222-2828
Website: Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program (MMP)
Qualified patients, in Rhode Island, may now choose to see a marijuana doctor online instead of in-person, using medical marijuana telemedicine services for the purpose of obtaining a Rhode Island medical marijuana evaluation:
The State of Rhode Island has a legalized medical marijuana program, which allows patients to receive a medical marijuana recommendation from a certified physician, and apply for a state-issued Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Card, permitting the patient to purchase marijuana for medicinal use, as per Rhode Island state guidelines.
Since the Rhode Island medical marijuana program is still changing their laws and new Rhode Island medical marijuana laws are being enacted on a regular basis, please be sure to visit our site frequently to get the most updated laws as it pertains to the Rhode Island medical marijuana program. Please click a corresponding link to find out more about Rhode Island’s Medical Marijuana Program. We have compiled the following Rhode Island medical marijuana index of information to serve as a medical library to our users for legal reference of Rhode Island’s laws, guidelines and program details regarding medical cannabis use in Rhode Island.
Please note: In order to become a legal medical marijuana patient you must first have a qualifying condition as outlined by the department of health services and/or department of justice. For a comprehensive list of Rhode Island’s qualifying medical marijuana conditions, please visit our qualifying conditions section located on the top of our menu under “legal states.”