Rhode Island’s medical cannabis program may be extremely small compared to others in the nation, but it’s showing signs of growth. Rhode Island’s legislature passed the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, also known as S0710, in June 2005. The bill was vetoed immediately by Gov. Donald Carcieri. On January 3, 2006, the House overrode Gov. Carcieri’s veto. In 2009, the state became the 11th state to legalize medical cannabis.
S0710 instituted the Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Marijuana Program to oversee patient, caregiver, and authorizer purchaser applications. If you’re interested in registering for Rhode Island’s medical cannabis program, here are a few things you should know in order to be approved for a medical marijuana card.
Benefits of a Medical Marijuana Card in Rhode Island
Currently, recreational use of marijuana is illegal in the state of Rhode Island. The only way to legally purchase and consume cannabis is by obtaining a valid medical marijuana card from Rhode Island or any other state with medical cannabis access laws. With a valid medical marijuana card, you can also grow your own weed. Additionally, Rhode Island cardholders don’t have to pay an excise tax on their purchases.
Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program is only open to patients who have debilitating medical conditions. Licensed physicians can provide a medical cannabis recommendation if the patient has one or more of the following medical conditions:
- Cancer or cancer treatment including chemotherapy, radiation, etc.
- Glaucoma or glaucoma treatment
- HIV/AIDS or HIV/AIDS treatment
- Hepatitis C or treatment for Hepatitis C
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe, debilitating, chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to the characteristic of:
- Agitation related to Alzheimer’s Disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – patient must be 18 or older
Medical Card Application Process in Rhode Island
In order to obtain a medical marijuana card in Rhode Island, you must be a resident of the state. To be approved for a medical card, you can submit a copy of one proof of residency that has your name and current address. Accepted proofs of residency include a driver’s license, state ID, or any correspondence with a state agency.
You will also be asked to submit a signed practitioner form from a licensed MD, DO, PA, or APRN. When filling out the patient application form online, you must state if you intend to grow medical cannabis plants for yourself. If you’re looking to grow your own plants, you must register your home grow location with the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.
Prospective patients can fill out the patient application form online and send it to the Department of Health’s office. If approved, you will receive a card within four weeks from the date your application was received. Medical cannabis cards expire after one year. After completing the form, patients can submit their application for approval by mail to the following address:
Department of Health
Center for Professional Licensing, Room 105A
3 Capitol Hill, Providence, RI 02908-5097
Medical card applicants must submit a $50 non-refundable application fee. Checks or money orders are payable to the Rhode Island General Treasurer. If you’re a patient in hospice care, a doctor can recommend that the application fee be waived. Replacement cards or any changes made to a card will run you $10. Some applicants can qualify for reduced application fees. You may be eligible for the $25 application fee if you have any of these benefits:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
- Veteran’s Disability
- Federal Railroad Disability
Minors are also allowed to participate in Rhode Island’s medical cannabis program. Patients under 18 years old can designate a parent or legal guardian to be their primary caregiver or authorized purchaser. Minors must submit a separate minor application form to the address listed above.
Buying Medical Marijuana
Once approved and with a medical card in hand, you can purchase cannabis from any of Rhode Island’s three compassion centers: Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, The Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, and Summit Medical Compassion Center. You may designate a caregiver or authorized purchaser to buy medical cannabis for you. Patients are allowed to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis every 15 days.
Growing Medical Cannabis
Patients are allowed to have 12 mature plants and 12 seedlings or designate a caregiver to grow for them. Primary caregivers can grow up to 24 plants and have 24 seedlings. Keep in mind, grow locations must be registered with the Department of Business Regulation. Under the state’s rules, every plant must have an approved plant tag. A set of two plant tags for one mature and one immature plant costs $25.
Primary Caregiver and Authorized Purchaser
Primary caregivers are allowed to purchase and grow cannabis for up to five patients at a time. Patients may only have one caregiver and authorized purchaser at a time. Caregivers and authorized purchasers must be at least 21 years old. Caregivers must be residents, but authorized purchasers can reside out of state.
Unlike a caregiver, an authorized purchaser can only buy marijuana for a patient, not grow for them. A caregiver application fee is $100. An authorized purchaser application fee is $50. Both caregivers and authorized purchasers must pass a background check and not have a felony conviction to participate in the medical marijuana program.
In June 2018, Rhode Island changed its medical cannabis rules to allow out-of-state patients to legally purchase cannabis from licensed medical dispensaries in the state. If you’re an out-of-state patient, you must have a valid medical cannabis card and a second form of government-issued photo ID to buy medical weed in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island’s medical program boasts over 18,000 patients and counting. Although the state has a limited number of dispensaries, patients are able to grow their own cannabis or have someone grow it for them. The changes to Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program have worked to increase accessibility to cannabis and patient safety.