Information on this website is not legal advice. Anyone with legal questions should consult their attorney. Please note that we are currently in the process of updating this site to incorporate recent changes to the law. Some of those changes take effect July 1, 2016. Others take effect January 1, 2017 and April 1, 2017.
As soon as a patient receives their MMj license from the health department, they should attend a RIPAC meeting where they can get answers about the MMj program in a confidential setting. Please see the calendar on this website for details.
Where to Get Medical Cannabis
Licensed RI patients have the following four options for obtaining their medicine: They may grow it, appoint a caregiver to grow it, and they may purchase from any or all RI compassion centers.
I. Grow It
By April 1, all plants being grown by patients and caregivers must have tags on them. They can be purchased from the Department of Business Regulation (DBR). For info on ordering and paying for tags, visit the DBR website: http://www.dbr.state.ri.us/divisions/medicalmarijuana/index.php#medtags
Growing isn’t for all patients, but those who do grow their own medicine report that caring for their plants is relaxing, therapeutic, and provides a great deal of satisfaction. The gratification that many patients derive from being self-reliant cannot be overstated.
Each patient must assess their own situation. The first consideration should be safety. Grow lights use a great deal of electricity and the wiring must be able to safely support the usage. An electrician should be consulted. RIPAC can provide a referral to an electrician who is familiar with the MMj Program. Patients who live in apartments, have limited privacy, limited space, etc. may and should conclude that growing is not appropriate. A landlord has the legal right to say NO to growing. We strongly urge anyone who is renting to get the landlord’s approval prior to growing. There have been many situations where the landlord finds about about a grow and responds by calling the police and demanding that the grow be taken down immediately. If there is going to be a problem, you can avoid a lot of drama, stress and costs by asking your landlord up front.
You should also check to be sure that your town or city does not have an ordinance that may affect where and how you grow. Examples: Coventry has a moratorium on co-ops, Tiverton only allows residential grows but will not permit residential or non-residential co-ops.
RIPAC sponsors Grow Classes for licensed patients. These classes are designed for the patient who is intimidated by the thought of growing cannabis and has no idea where to start, as well as patients with some experience. Licensed caregivers are welcome when attending with their patients. Please check the RIPAC calendar on this website for dates, times, and more details.
A licensed patient may possess a maximum of 12 mature cannabis plants, and 12 seedlings. A mature cannabis plant is one that has flowers or buds that are readily observable by an unaided visual examination, and a seedling has yet to develop flowers or buds. These plants must be grown and stored indoors.
A licensed patient may possess a maximum of 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis.
Usable cannabis means dried flowers and leaves and any mixture or preparation thereof, thus including hashish, tinctures, other extracts, baked goods, and other edibles.
Patients may possess any reasonable amount of unusable cannabis, which means seeds, stalks, and unusable roots.
Some patients are completely self-sufficient and self-reliant. Others do not have the space or experience to grow as many plants as they need, so they also appoint a caregiver to make up the difference. Other patients will continue to grow and appoint a compassion center to help when they want to try a different strain of cannabis or have a problem with their plants. Other patients are not in a position to grow and depend solely on caregivers and/or compassion centers. Each patient is unique and should do an honest and realistic assessment of their options.
Can I GROW with another patient or caregiver?
By January 1, 2017 co-ops must be licensed by DBR. By April 1, all plants being grown by patients and caregivers must have tags on them. They can be purchased from the Department of Business Regulation (DBR). For info on ordering and paying for tags, visit the DBR website: http://www.dbr.state.ri.us/divisions/medicalmarijuana/index.php#medtags
Yes. But and patient or caregiver cardholder who grows with another cardholder is, as of September 1, 2014, considered a Co-op and special limits and requirements apply:
RESIDENTIAL CO-OPS . Two or more cardholders can grow in a residence but cannot have more that 24 mature plants, 24 seedlings, and 10 ounces of dried cannabis. Only one co-op permitted in one building. So, if there is a building with many apartments, there could be only one co-op in entire building. Not clear how patients and caregivers would know whether there are other co-ops in the building.
Residential co-ops must register with state police and have an affidavit from an electrician stating that electrical is up to code and in compliance with zoning. (An individual cardholder who is growing by themselves is not be required to register with state police or have an affidavit from electrician).
NON RESIDENTIAL “CO-OP”
Two or more cardholders can grow together in non-residential setting but cannot possess more than 48 mature plants, 48 seedlings, and 10 ounces. Only one co-op per building. Must be inspected by local city or town building department to ensure compliance with building and zoning codes. Must also be inspected by fire department.
Non residential “co-ops” have to register with state police. Individual cardholder growing alone does not have to register with state police or be inspected.
Other requirements for “co-ops”:
- Cardholders can have co-op in one location only.
- Cultivation cannot be visible from street or public areas.
- A written acknowledgement of the limitations of the right to use and possess marijuana for medical purposes in Rhode Island that is signed by each cardholder and is displayed prominently in the premises cooperative cultivation.
- Violation of above requirements will result in revocation of MMj card.
- AS OF JANUARY 1, 2017, ALL CO-OPS MUST PAY AN ANNUAL FEE AND APPLY TO THE DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS REGULATION (DBR) FOR A LICENSE. CO-OPS WILL BE SUBJECT TO DBR REGULATION. DBR regulations will determine the amount of the fee and licensure requirements.
II. Appoint a Caregiver
Caregivers may be appointed by patients to assist them with their “medical use” of cannabis. “Medical use” is defined by the MMj Act as: “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.” Most caregivers grow medical cannabis for their patients. A patient may have one caregiver. To understand the requirement for becoming a caregiver, please go to: http://ripatients.org/becomingacaregiver.html
Caregivers must be at least 21 years old and submit to a national criminal records check.
The power to appoint caregivers is a serious responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Every patient and caregiver is a reflection of the MMj program. It is crucial that patients appoint caregivers who are trustworthy and who will not exploit the MMj program by selling medicine on the illegal market. Such caregivers pose a threat to the security and longevity of grow rights in the MMj program. A patient should never appoint an unknown caregiver. It is never advisable to search for a caregiver on the internet. It is crucial to appoint a caregiver who will honor the MMj law (that so many fought so hard to achieve), who will treat patients with dignity and respect, and who will be able to provide quality medicine.
Patents can appoint a caregiver in their initial applications to the Health Department or at any time thereafter. The registration fee to appoint a caregiver is 100 dollars. The fee is 25 dollars if the caregiver can provide proof that they are receiving SSI, SSDI, Railroad Disability, or Medicaid or is a disabled Veteran. The caregiver must also submit to a national criminal background check. If the patient does not appoint a caregiver in their initial application, then they must either call the Health Dept. at 401.222.3752 or email them at email@example.com to request the appropriate form. They will send the patent a form with the patient’s name and MMP registration number pre-printed on it. Please be aware that the Health Department will not prorate the registration fee and that the caregiver’s license will expire when the patient’s license expires. For example, a patient’s license is active for one year. If a patient’s license is activated on January 2, 2017, it will expire on January 2, 2018. If the patient later decides to appoint a caregiver in July 2017, the caregiver’s license will expire on January 2, 2018, the same date as that the patent’s license expires. So, while a patient gets a one year license, the caregiver does not always.
A patient may drop a caregiver by filling out a change form and paying a 10 dollar fee. A specific reason is not required. The change form is available at: http://www.health.ri.gov/forms/request/MedicalMarijuanaPatientInformationChange.pdf
III. Compassion Centers
As of July 1, 2016, a RI MMj patient may use any or all three RI compassion centers without pre-registering. Remember to bring your MMj card. The three centers are:
- The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence www.Slatercenter.com 401.274.1000.
- The Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth http://www.greenleafcare.org/ 401.293.5987.
- Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick http://www.summitri.org/ 401 889 3990
IV. Obtaining Medical Cannabis on the Illegal Market
Patients are legal to possess up to 2.5 ounces, regardless of where it was obtained.
However, obtaining medicine on the illegal market is not a good idea for several reasons. It can be dangerous. Patients have had guns held to their heads, been threatened, beaten, and stabbed while trying to get their medicine. There is also no way to guarantee how the medicine was grown, what chemicals have been added, or what strain it is. Patients who associate with drug dealers may find that they are being watched by law enforcement and may be in the very uncomfortable position of being questioned by police.
Cost of Medical Cannabis
There is a cost to growing medical cannabis in Rhode Island especially because the law requires it to be grown indoors. Costs include electricity, grow equipment, nutrients, etc. The costs of growing cannabis vary greatly.
Patients interested in growing their own medicine can attend a RIPAC sponsored grow class. The class covers all aspects of growing and offers guidance to patients with limited funds. (Patients are welcome to bring their licensed caregivers). Check the calendar on this website for details.
Caregivers may accept payment from their patients to reimburse them for the costs associated with growing or acquiring medicine. The law specifically states that a caregiver “may receive reimbursement for costs associated with assisting a registered qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana. Compensation shall not constitute sale of controlled substances”. The law does not protect caregivers who charge patients more than their actual costs.
The compassion centers, when they open, will set their own prices. All three have indicated an intention to provide free and reduced cost medicine to some patients who cannot afford it. Patients should inquire with the individual centers.
Cardholders are legally protected for giving medical cannabis to one another. Any patient or caregiver may give marijuana to any other patient or caregiver, as long as no consideration is exchanged. In other words, the cannabis must be given with no strings attached. It is not a gift if the giver requires any consideration such as money or any item or services. A “swap” is not a gift. Requiring a “donation” for medicine is not a gift.
Where to Use Medical Cannabis
There are legal restrictions on where a patient may smoke medical cannabis. The law forbids smoking medical cannabis in a school bus or other public transportation, in school, in jails and correctional facilities, in drug treatment facilities, and in all public places. Patients should be aware that if they are smoking on private property but the smoke travels to someone else’s property, there could be problems. For example, if a patient smokes on their porch but the smoke travels to a neighbor’s porch, law enforcement may be involved. In other words, patients should use their medicine in a manner that protects their privacy and does not have a negative impact on others. Special caution must be observed around children and the law does not protect a patient who endangers the welfare of a child.
Patients and caregivers must always have their licenses with them in order to be protected by the law.
Automobiles The law prohibits patients from operating a car, boat, or plane while intoxicated. Evidence of THC is a patient’s blood or urine cannot, however, be used as evidence of intoxication because all patients who use cannabis will have THC in their systems. Patients who travel in a car containing marijuana smoke risk arrest as a police officer may believe that the smoke is evidence of intoxication. Patients who have problems balancing or could not pass a field sobriety test because of their medical conditions, should ask their physicians for a letter indicating that the patient suffers from a medical condition that would affect their performance on a field sobriety test.
Patients and caregivers travelling with medical cannabis should have the medicine in an air tight container to control any odor and place it in the trunk or in a place that is not visible to anyone who can look into the car. While it is legally permissible for cardholders to transport cannabis, law enforcement may want to verify the cardholder’s license and otherwise delay the cardholder. Keeping the odors limited helps safeguard privacy. After all, this is your MEDICINE and the fact that you use cannabis as medicine is your private medical information. Your discretion helps keep it private.
If a patient or a caregiver is stopped by the police while in a vehicle and for some reason the officer sees the patient’s or caregiver’s license, the officer does NOT have the right to search the car just based on the fact that the person is in the medical marijuana program.
Cardholders’ identities are confidential. A patient’s or caregiver’s name and address, as well as the patient’s doctor’s identity, are private data, kept secret by the Department of Health. All of the information in the Medical Marijuana Program registry is private under state law and exempt from the Rhode Island Access to Public Information Act, and private under federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA 1996). Anyone, including a state employee, who divulges any of this confidential information, is criminally liable for up to 180 days of jail time and up to $1,000 fine.
All patients and caregivers must respect each other’s confidentiality. For example, a patient should never disclose the identity of their caregiver to anyone unless they have the caregiver’s permission to do so. Caregivers should never reveal the identity of their patients without permission. Anyone who reveals the identity of a patient or caregiver without permission is liable.
The vast majority of patients and caregivers do not have interactions with law enforcement regarding medical cannabis. Patients and caregivers who are within the bounds of the law are protected by their license. Patients and caregivers who are over their limits or otherwise break the law are not protected by the law and are subject to the same criminal penalties as anyone else.
The police have no way of knowing who the licensed patients and caregivers are. The Health Department cannot release that information. The Health Department can only verify the numbers that are on a patient’s medical marijuana license. So, for example, if the police go to a patient’s home because the neighbors complained about marijuana smoke and if the patient shows his license, the police may call the Health Department to verify the card. The Health Department will only tell the officer that the numbers on the license were issued to a card.
The most common way that patients and caregivers come to the attention of law enforcement is from neighbors complaining about the smell of marijuana smoke or, more commonly, plants. Simply put, patients and caregivers who do not want to interact with law enforcement should be discrete and protect their own privacy. Neighbors smelling marijuana plants may be concerned that drug dealers have moved into the neighborhood and call the police.
Keep in mind that if the police receive complaints that you are growing marijuana, they currently have no way of determining whether or not you are legal until they see your MMj license. If they call the Health Dept. and ask if someone at a particular address has a MMj license, the Dept. is prohibited from answering.
Patients and caregivers must always have their licenses with them in order to be protected by the law.
Other States and Federal Law
The Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act can only protect patients and caregivers within state boundaries. As soon as a patient or caregiver steps into another state, the law of that state applies. Some medical marijuana states have a form of reciprocity but most do not. The only New England state that has indicated that it will recognize a RI MMj license is Maine. RI patients are protected for up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis but they are not permitted to acquire it within Maine.
Marijuana, medical or otherwise, is still illegal under federal law. Therefore, whenever a patient or caregiver interacts with a federal agency, it is the federal law that applies. Federal agencies include the U.S. Postal Service, Veteran’s Administration, TSA (airports), etc. The law of Rhode Island cannot protect patients and caregivers from federal law.
If a caregiver or patient is tried in a federal court, they will most likely not be able to use the Rhode Medical Marijuana Act as a defense. In other words, a patient or caregiver license has no meaning in a federal court.
The Justice Department has, however, made it clear that anyone growing more than 99 plants, collectively or individually, and/or engaged in a large scale commercial selling of marijuana is of interest to them and may be prosecuted whether or not they have a patient or caregiver license.
Protection from Discrimination
Patient and caregiver cardholders may not be discriminated against, for purposes of enrolling in school, leasing from a landlord, or being employed at a job. This means that cardholders cannot be evicted, fired, or expelled simply for their status as participants in the Medical Marijuana Program. Cardholders are not liable for asset forfeiture. Patients also cannot be discriminated against for purposes of organ transplants, as medical cannabis is considered equivalent to any other physician-authorized medication. Please note that patients and caregivers in federal housing face federal prohibitions and should seek legal advice.
AVOIDING PROBLEMS WITH NEIGHBORS AND POLICE
Very few patients and caregivers have problems with police. All license holders should be aware that the Health Department is currently prohibited from telling the police who is in the program. They have no way of knowing if you have a license until you show it to them
* The most likely reason you might have an encounter with the police is that a neighbor or someone who has been near your plants thinks that you are growing illegally and turns you in because they are concerned. For this reason, it is important to maintain cordial relationships with neighbors and friends if possible. The best policy is to tell as few people as possible what you are doing. If it is obvious that you are growing marijuana, the more likely it is that you could be robbed. Neighbors will fear that they, too, could be in harm’s way.
* DO NOT sell medical marijuana. Caregivers may accept money for reimbursements from their licensed patients. There is no legal selling in RI except for Compassion Centers. If you sell marijuana, you are hurting the program and leaving yourself open to criminal liability. This activity is illegal and someone who knows of your activity may give your name to the police to avoid, or lessen criminal liability for themselves.
* Be aware of how you appear to your neighbors. If they can smell or see the plants, if people are coming and going from your house, they may conclude that you are a drug dealer and so might the police. You could get a visit from the police or a raid. Anyone growing marijuana who is known to have guns is at risk of being raided. A raid can be a dangerous situation for all and should be avoided. Keep in mind that this is a confidential program and the police do not know which households are licensed and which ones are not until they get into the house.
* Be discreet. It is best to have your indoor garden in a location in your house that is not visible from the outside or to guests who visit your house. You should consider venting your garden room in such a way to avoid strong marijuana smells inside or outside the house. Talk to your local grow shop about carbon filters.
* Stay within the plant and marijuana limits set by the state law. If you are just one plant or one gram over your limit, you could be prosecuted.
* Do not let anyone who does not live in your home grow marijuana in your home, even if they have a license. The police could charge you with possession of those plants unless you have a card for them and they are your plants.
* Co-op gardens, according to the RI Attorney General’s office are illegal.
* Do not let anyone grow in your home if they don’t live there. You could be charged with possession of those plants because you are the one who is there and it looks like you are in possession of them.
* Travel safely. Do not smoke marijuana while driving. It is illegal to drive while under the influence. Police officers have said that if they stop a vehicle and there is marijuana smoke in it, that there will be an arrest. and drive or have marijuana visible in your automobile.
*If you travel with marijuana, keep the marijuana concealed, preferably in your trunk. While it is legal to transport medical marijuana, if a police officer sees or smells it, you may be detained while they verify your MMj license with the Health Department. You may be with the police for a long time if they can’t get through or if it is after hours.
* Be aware of how you are discarding old plant material and garden equipment. If neighbors get the impression that you are growing marijuana, they may think you are a drug dealer and call the police.
* Keep all medicine in containers clearly labeled, “MARIJUANA FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY UNDER RHODE ISLAND LAW.” Labeling the marijuana also helps to inform police that your marijuana is for medical use if the police are in your home when you are not there.
* At the entrance to your garden, post a copy of your Rhode Island medical marijuana card and a copy of the state law to inform police who may be uneducated about the law that you are legally entitled to this medicine.
* Consider carefully who you invite to your house for routine maintenance. For example, appliance repair people, telephone or internet service people, and insect control people may observe or smell your garden and turn you in to the police. Consider doing as many of these things yourself, or through a trusted friend, rather than taking the chance of drawing attention to your activities.
* Don’t flaunt it. Even though you are a licensed medical marijuana patient or caregiver, Rhode Island law still prohibits public use. Public use at hemp rallies or other public events may make it more likely that law enforcement investigates your activity.
* Do not keep medical marijuana or paraphernalia in plain or open view through windows. If marijuana is in plain view, police will not need a search warrant to come into your home.
* Treat your medical cannabis as medicine and give it the respect it deserves. Do not carry it around in baggies and refer to it as “pot”, “weed”, etc. You have a MMj license because it is medicine for you. The more you act like a recreational user, the more likely you are to be treated as one.
Rules to Live By for Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Patients
You must always have your MMj patient card with you when medicating or in possession of your medical cannabis. You may have 2.5 ounces of dried usable cannabis. Dried leaves are considered usable.
Consider growing your own medicine if the wiring is safe (hire a licensed electrician) and it is appropriate. (Patients in federal housing could face eviction). Attend RIPAC meetings and classes to learn how to be self-sufficient.
You must grow within your limit (12 mature plants & 12 seedlings). Plants must be indoors.
Protect your privacy and security. Be discreet. Contain smells coming from your garden or someone may think you are a drug dealer and call the police. Plant odor also increases chances of being robbed.
You can appoint one caregivers. If you appoint a caregiver to grow for you, choose someone you trust. Do not appoint a stranger without asking questions and getting references. See if RIPAC can help you locate a caregiver. Avoid unscrupulous caregivers. They won’t be good for you or the Program.
If you smoke, consider other options. A vaporizer will help protect your lungs & privacy because it will produce vapor instead of smoke, thus eliminating the smell and possible unwanted attention.
Edibles can be an effective option but be careful. It may take more than two hours to feel the full effect. Exercise caution whenever trying a new strain or new way of administering your medicine (edibles, oils, tinctures, teas, etc.) Keep all medical products far away from children and pets.
Smoking in public is illegal.
Never smoke or use medical cannabis in a way that could adversely affect children.
DO NOT travel in a car with marijuana smoke in it.
It is legal to transport your medicine in RI but a police officer may detain you if he or she sees or smells medical cannabis in your vehicle. You could be waiting awhile if the officer wants to verify your license or consult with other officers about the law. Put medicine in an odor proof container and keep it out of sight to safeguard your privacy.
RI law can only protect you when you are in RI. If you go to another state, the law of that state applies. Although federal authorities have not been interested in prosecuting patients who are compliant with state law, you are not legal under federal law. Be aware that federal agencies can apply the federal law (postal service, Veterans Administration, HUD, etc.).
Protect the MMj program. Never abuse the MMj program by selling your medicine or sharing with non-patients. Do not enable or in any way help anyone who is illegally exploiting the program.
Protect Yourself. Know and abide by the law so it can protect you.
RIPAC is an organization of patients and supporters. Please visit our calendar at www.RIpatients.org to learn more about activities and events. Some patients and caregivers come to meetings and activities to learn, some come to feel the support, some come to provide support.