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Cannabis in Rhode Island is illegal for recreational use. Several proposals to legalize the drug have been advanced in the Rhode Island General Assembly, but none have succeeded. Medical use was legalized through legislation approved in 2006.
Rhode Island first banned the sale of cannabis without a prescription in 1918.:475
As of 2012, Rhode Island had some of the strictest mandatory minimums for large-scale cannabis possession in the United States. Possession of more than 5 kg results in a sentence of 20 years' imprisonment and fines of between $25,000 and $100,000.
Following the success of recreational cannabis ballot initiatives in four states and the District of Columbia in 2012 and 2014, advocates in Rhode Island, where there is no public ballot initiative process, pressed their legislature to allow a public vote on legalizing recreational cannabis. In 2016 advocates cited a recent Brown University poll showing 55% of state residents support legalization. A February 2017 poll showed 59% of Rhode Islanders in favor of full legalization.
In 2006 Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana, becoming the eleventh state to do so. The legislation was passed the year in 2005, winning approval in the state House by a vote of 52-10 and the state Senate by a vote of 33-1. Republican Governor Don Carcieri vetoed the legislation, but the Legislature overrode the veto, by a vote of 59–13 in the state House and 28-6 in the state Senate.
Under Rhode Island law, "Approved Qualifying Debilitating Medical Conditions" for medical marijuana are: cancer, glacoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, or a "chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following": cachexia (wasting syndrome); "severe, debilitating, chronic pain"; "severe nausea"; epilepsy or other seizures; "severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease"; and Alzheimer's disease-related agitation.
In October 2016, there were 15,470 patients in Rhode Island, along with three dispensaries (which are permitted to grow marijuana for their patients' use).
As of 2019, there are three medical cannabis dispensaries in Rhode Island: Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence, Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick, and Greenleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth.
- United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency (1977). Marijuana decriminalization: hearing before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, first session, pursuant to S. Res. 72, section 12, Investigation of juvenile delinquency in the United States, S. 1450 ... May 14, 1975. U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Jonathan P. Caulkins; Angela Hawken; Beau Kilmer; Mark Kleiman (June 14, 2012). Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know?. Oxford University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-19-994288-6.
- Bogdan, Jennifer (June 2, 2016). "Marijuana advocates demand vote on legalization". Providence Journal.
- Jennifer Bogdan. "3 out of 5 in R.I. support legalized recreational marijuana, poll says - News - providencejournal.com - Providence, RI". providencejournal.com. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
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- Katie Zezima, In Rhode Island, Uncertainty About Medical Marijuana Law, New York Times (June 30, 2005).
- Marijuana Bill Vetoed in R.I., Associated Press (June 30, 2005).
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- Medical Marijuana, Rhode Island Department of Health (accessed November 14, 2016).
- Morgan, Kayla (September 1, 2010). Legalizing Marijuana. ABDO Publishing Company. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-61787-384-3.
- Jennifer Bogdan & Tom Mooney, R.I. emergency regulations create new category to supply medical marijuana dispensaries, Providence Journals (October 26, 2016).
- Mooney, Tom. "Pot luck: R.I. may bring in an outside firm to ensure dispensary selection process is truly random". providencejournal.com. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
- Members of Rhode Island cannabis church arrested on marijuana charges, WJAR (Sinclair Broadcast Group) (July 20, 2016).