Updated on June 28, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The state’s Medical Marijuana Act permits Rhode Island residents with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana if a physician certifies in writing that the marijuana may alleviate their symptoms and that the potential benefits of using medical marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks to the patient. This means that patients, caregivers, and authorized purchasers who are registered with the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program may possess a limited amount of marijuana without violating state law.
Registered patients may designate one caregiver and one authorized purchaser. Individual caregivers may be responsible for up to five patients. Authorized purchasers can only be associated with one patient. There is no limit to the number of patients a compassion center may serve.
After Senate Bill 0710 was approved, by the House on June 24, 2005, and the Senate on June 28, 2005, it was vetoed by the Governor on June 29, 2005. The House and Senate responded by overriding the veto, on June 30, 2005.
And on January 03, 2006, the veto was successfully overridden by the House 59-13, effectively creating the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, effectively removing all state-level criminal penalties on the use and possession of marijuana by patients in possession of a written letter from a physician stating that he or she may benefit from the medical use of marijuana for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.
Senate Bill 791, an amendment passed on June 21, 2007, removed the repeal date for the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act, in addition to expanding the definition of primary caregiver.
H5359 — passed on February 10, 2009; effective June 16, 2009 — amended the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, to include instructions for the creation, regulation, and administration of state-licensed compassion care centers — also known as “medical marijuana dispensary” — which may acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply, or dispense marijuana, or related supplies and educational materials, to aid qualifying patients and their registered caregivers, on February 10, 2009.
The first Rhode Island state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary, “The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center,” opened to registered patients, on April 19, 2013.
As per the Rhode Island, “Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act,” qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers, are legally allowed to cultivate and possess, no more than twelve (12) plants, and five (5) ounces of usable cannabis.
Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program — “THE EDWARD O. HAWKINS AND THOMAS C. SLATER MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACT”
Introduced By: Representatives Slater, Diaz, Williams, Williamson, and Almeida
Date Introduced: February 10, 2009
Referred To: House Health, Education & Welfare
It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
SECTION 1. Sections 21-28.6-3, 21-28.6-4, 21-28.6-6 and 21-28.6-7 of the General Laws in Chapter 21-28.6 entitled “The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act” are hereby amended to read as follows:
21-28.6-3. Definitions. — For the purposes of this chapter:
(1) “Cardholder” means a qualifying patient, a primary caregiver, or a principal officer, board member, employee, volunteer, or agent of a compassion center who has been issued and possesses a valid registry identification card.
(2) “Compassion center” means a not-for-profit entity registered under section 21-28.6-10 that acquires, possesses, cultivates, manufactures, delivers, transfers, transports, supplies or dispenses marijuana, or related supplies and educational materials to registered qualifying patients and their registered primary caregivers who have designated it as one of their primary caregivers.
(3) “Debilitating medical condition” means:
(i) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Hepatitis C, Autism Spectrum Disorder(s) or the treatment of these conditions;
(ii) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating, chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease; or agitation related to or from Alzheimer’s Disease; or
(iii) Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the department, as provided for in section 21-28.6-5.
(4) “Department” means the Rhode Island Department of Health or its successor agency.
(5) “Marijuana” has the meaning given that term in section 21-28-1.02(26).
(6) “Mature marijuana plant” means a marijuana plant which has flowers or buds that are readily observable by an unaided visual examination.
(7) “Medical use” means the acquisition, possession, cultivation, manufacture, use, delivery, transfer, or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia relating to the consumption of marijuana to alleviate a registered qualifying patient’s debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the medical condition.
(8) “Practitioner” means a person who is licensed with authority to prescribe drugs pursuant to chapter 37 of title 5 or a physician licensed with authority to prescribe drugs in Massachusetts or Connecticut.
(9) “Primary caregiver” means either a natural person who is at least twenty-one (21) years old or a compassion center. Unless the primary caregiver is a compassion center, a natural primary caregiver may assist no more than five (5) qualifying patients with their medical use of marijuana.
(10) “Qualifying patient” means a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition and is a resident of Rhode Island.
(11) “Registry identification card” means a document issued by the department that identifies a person as a registered qualifying patient, or a registered primary caregiver, or a registered principal officer, board member volunteer, or agent of a compassion center.
(12) “Unusable marijuana” means marijuana seeds, stalks, seedlings, and unusable roots. “Seedling” means a marijuana plant with no observable flowers or buds.
(13) “Usable marijuana” means the dried leaves and flowers of the marijuana plant and any mixture or preparation thereof, but does not include the seeds, stalks, and roots of the plant.
(14) “Written certification” means the qualifying patient’s medical records, and a statement signed by a practitioner, stating that in the practitioner’s professional opinion the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient. A written certification shall be made only in the course of a bona fide practitioner-patient relationship after the practitioner has completed a full assessment of the qualifying patient’s medical history. The written certification shall specify the qualifying patient’s debilitating medical condition or conditions.