FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT

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. 

What is the medical marijuana law?
On January 3, 2006, the Rhode Island legislature enacted the Medical Marijuana Act to protect licensed medical marijuana patients with debilitating medical conditions and their caregivers from arrest and prosecution

What medical conditions qualify a patient to become a licensed medical marijuana patient?
A patient must have a debilitating medical condition as defined by the Medical Marijuana Act: cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s Disease, epilepsy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and any chronic, debilitating conditions that produce seizures, wasting, spasms or severe nausea or pain.

A licensed physician who has a bona fide physician-patient relationship with the patient must certify that the patient qualifies for the medical marijuana program.

How much marijuana can patients possess?
A licensed patient may possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. 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.

A patient may also possess 12 mature plants and 12 seedlings. “Mature marijuana plant” is defined as a marijuana plant which has flowers or buds that are readily observable by an unaided visual examination. “Seedling” means a marijuana plant with no observable flowers or buds.

Are there restrictions on how a patient can use or grow medical marijuana?

Marijuana plants must be stored indoors. The Law does not allow anyone to undertake any task under the influence of marijuana, when doing so would constitute negligence or professional malpractice and patients are not permitted to smoke:

(i) In a school bus or other form of public transportation;
(ii) On any school grounds;
(iii) In any correctional facility;
(iv) In any public place;
(v) In any licensed drug treatment facility in this state; or
(vi) Where exposure to the marijuana smoke significantly adversely affects the health, safety, or welfare of children.

How much marijuana can a caregiver possess? A caregiver who is registered with the Health Department to assist ONE patient with his or her medical use of marijuana can possess up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana and up to 12 mature marijuana plants and 12 seedlings.
A caregiver may be registered to assist up to 5 patients. A caregiver with 2 – 5 patients may possess a maximum of 24 mature marijuana plants, 24 seedlings and five ounces of usable marijuana.

Can a caregiver transport medical marijuana for a patient?   Yes. Caregivers can assist patients with their “medical use” of marijuana. Medical use is defined by the Medical Marijuana 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.

If police officers learn that an individual is a licensed caregiver or patient, can they search the patient or caregiver, their automobile or home to make sure they are within their limits?

No. The Act states:

Possession of, or application for, a registry identification card shall not constitute probable cause or reasonable suspicion, nor shall it be used to support the search of the person or property of the person possessing or applying for the registry identification card, or otherwise subject the person or property of the person to inspection by any governmental agency

How can I verify that a patient or caregiver license is valid?

If you look on the back of the license you will see the phone number for the Health Department, 222-2828. The Department can verify the legitimacy of a card by telling you that they issued the unique numbers on the front of the license.


Do law enforcement officials have a duty to keep confidential the identity of patients and caregivers?

Yes. The law states: It shall be a crime, punishable by up to one hundred eighty (180) days in jail and a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine, for any person, including an employee or official of the department or another state agency or local government, to breach the confidentiality of information obtained pursuant to this chapter. Notwithstanding this provision, the department employees may notify law enforcement about falsified or fraudulent information submitted to the department.

Applications and supporting information submitted by qualifying patients, including information regarding their primary caregivers and practitioners, are confidential and protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and shall be exempt from the provisions of the RIGL chapter 38-2 et seq. the Rhode Island access to public records act and not subject to disclosure, except to authorized employees of the department as necessary to perform official duties of the department.

Are out of state medical marijuana licenses valid in Rhode Island?

Yes. The Rhode Island law states: A registry identification card, or its equivalent, issued under the laws of another state, U.S. territory, or the District of Columbia to permit the medical use of marijuana by a patient with a debilitating medical condition, or to permit a person to assist with the medical use of marijuana by a patient with a debilitating medical condition, shall have the same force and effect as a registry identification card issued by the department.
The Health Department has taken the position that, while out of state patients and caregivers are protected for possession of marijuana, an out of state patient cannot appoint a caregiver in RI and will not be able to obtain medicine from compassion centers.

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