Marijuana Decriminalized in RI

On April 1, 2013 the “Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act” went into effect, legalizing the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, marijuana paraphernalia, and a limited amount of marijuana plants in the state of RI. It also creates a regulatory process for the manufacture, sale and taxation of marijuana. “More than seven decades of arresting marijuana users has failed to prevent its use,” the bill begins.

There were more than 2,702 arrests for pot-related offenses in 2009 while rapes had a clearance rate of a mere 27% (meaning of all reported incidences, only 27% were charged).

Know your rights: After sorting through the 42-page bill, here’s what you need to know…


All rules apply to adults 21-years or older.

Anyone previously convicted of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana or possession of marijuana paraphernalia will be expunged, provided that person was 21 years of age or older at the time of conviction.
  • A person 21-years or older is exempt from arrest, penalty, seizure of weed or paraphernalia or prosecution for possessing, using, obtaining or transporting (AKA you can have)
    • An ounce or less of weed
    • Five grams or less of hashish
    • 16 ounces of weed-infused solids (brownies, edibles, etc)
    • 72 ounces of weed-infused liquids
    • Marijuana paraphernalia
    • No more than six marijuana plants,
      • Only three plants can be mature or flowering
  • Growing at Home
    • Plants can only be grown on owned property, otherwise a landlord’s permission is required.
    • Plants growing outside must be cultivated in an enclosed, locked location, such as a locked fenced-in area.
    • Plants growing inside must not be in eyesight from outside of the dwelling.
    • If residents are under 21 years old, plants must be locked up.
  • You cannot
    • Possess weed in a prison or juvenile detention center, whether you’re visiting or not
    • Operate a car, motorboat or sailboat under the influence of marijuana.
      • After taking a urine sample individuals, “shall not be considered under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of marijuana unless the concentration of components of marijuana is proven to be sufficient to cause impairment.”
    • A person who smokes marijuana in an outdoor public place shall be liable for a civil penalty of one hundred fifty dollars $150.
    • Sell weed to anybody without a wholesaler or retailer license
    • Buy weed from anybody without a wholesaler or retailer license (though once its yours, its yours)
    • Possess weed in a work-environment if there are rules in place that prohibit it.
  • For the kids
    • 18-20 year olds caught possessing an ounce or less of marijuana must forfeit the drug in question and pay a $150 fine.
    • 17 years old and under caught possessing an ounce or less of marijuana must forfeit the drug in question and pay a $150 fine along with completing an approved drug awareness program and community service as determined by the court.
  • Buying and Selling: Wholesalers and retailers
    • A wholesaler is exempt from state penalties for cultivating, preparing, packaging, and selling marijuana to a retailer or another wholesaler, but cannot sell marijuana to the general public.
    • A retailer is exempt from state penalties for purchasing marijuana from a wholesaler and selling marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia to customers who are 21 years of age or older.
    • Anybody over 21 can sell weed seeds to a wholesaler.
    • A year or less from when the bill was passed there will be one wholesaler and one retailer registry in the country, with the numbers growing substantially over the next few years.

So what does this mean for Rhode Islanders today? Head shops aren’t changing any time soon. They’ll still be selling “tobacco” pipes until they become “retailers,” which first, is subject to take a solid chunk of time and second, costs $10,000. Your drug dealer can’t go launching his marketing campaign without a permit (advertising will be regulated the way the cigarette companies are anyway). You do now, however, have the legal right to grow plants in your own home; bake your weed cake and eat it too.

With regulated sale comes taxation so here’s the bad news. For every ounce a wholesaler sells, they pay a tax of $50 (adjusted for inflation). After traveling through other wholesalers, down to the retailers and to the public, in the end, an ounce what would normally sell on the street from anywhere from $260 – $300 will rise substantially.

Then there’s the issue of legalization in a state while the country still hasn’t made the move. Though not addressed in this bill, the initial ruling can very likely change over the course of the year.

Still not satisfied? Check the State of Rhode Island General Assembly for the full 42 pages-worth. Know your rights.