Marijuana is now legal in Rhode Island!!! | Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP

With the stroke of a pen, Gov. McKee signed the law into law Wednesday, dramatically changing the landscape for growing, owning, selling and using marijuana in Rhode Island. Many of the changes are effective immediately. There have been many failed attempts at such legislation over the past decade, but momentum has picked up over the past year when the state Senate passed a version in 2021.

The new law includes provisions that affect consumers, medical marijuana patients, growers, retailers and those convicted of past marijuana crimes. We will be presenting various aspects of the new law in separate blog posts over the next few months. But some of the highlights are:

  • Adults over the age of 21 can now possess (and eventually purchase) up to one ounce of marijuana and store up to 10 ounces in a household. Adults can also grow up to 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants, subject to safety requirements to be developed. Possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of marijuana is decriminalized and carries only a civil fine without the threat of jail time.
  • Smoking marijuana in public places or any other place where federal, state or local law prohibits smoking or vaping tobacco, such as on school buses, public transportation, on school grounds or in correctional facilities is not permitted by law.
  • The new law establishes a three-member “Cannabis Control Commission” (CCC) to regulate the marijuana industry in Rhode Island. The CCC, with the help of an advisory board, will create rules and regulations to implement the new law and review and approve applications for retail licenses.
  • State courts will automatically remove from court records and erase any previous civil violations, misdemeanors, or convictions for possession of amounts of marijuana that would now be decriminalized. The courts have until July 1, 2024 to do this, but it is possible to apply to the courts for accelerated deletion.
  • Adult marijuana sales are expected to begin on December 1 (although that date may be delayed if the Massachusetts experience is any guide). Initially, sales can be made from the 3 existing retail medical marijuana “Compassion Centers” and the 6 new “Compassion Centers” that have recently been licensed if they apply for the new “Hybrid” license and pay the license fee. Up to 24 additional licenses will be issued, evenly distributed across 6 geographical zones, 6 reserved for social justice applicants and 6 for worker-owned cooperatives.
  • Adult sales are subject to a 7% state sales tax, a 10% consumption tax and a 3% local tax for cities and counties hosting marijuana stores.
  • Cities and towns that do not currently host any of the 9 Compassion Centers can vote to deny licensing marijuana retail stores by holding a voter referendum on or before November 8, 2022. Labs can continue to operate, but new licenses cannot be approved by the CCC be issued for adult use, and the city or county will not be able to share in the revenue from recreational sales. If a city or municipality opts out, it can only vote to opt-in again with a joint resolution of the General Assembly authorizing the opt-in.
  • Beginning December 1, 2022, medical marijuana patients and their caregivers will no longer have to pay a fee to grow their own medical marijuana, but will still be required to register with the CCC.
  • The bill includes a two-year moratorium on new cultivation licenses. Beginning August 1, 2022, any existing medical marijuana grower can cultivate, manufacture, and process as a “hybrid cannabis grower” for both adult and medicinal purposes upon payment of a license fee. However, farmers would be prohibited from selling directly to consumers.
  • The bill prevents industry consolidation by banning any company from directly or indirectly owning more than one business license. However, individuals may invest in more than one licensee.
  • Employees can still be disciplined for workplace marijuana use or impairment while on the job (on the job or remotely), but not just for lawful marijuana use outside of the workplace, with some exceptions for government contractors and hazardous occupations (where the employer can implement policies prohibiting adult use of marijuana within 24 hours of a scheduled shift or assignment).

Key details remain to be developed in the coming months, including: the makeup of the CCC, the traffic rules for licensing, whether existing medical marijuana compassion center licensees will transition to hybrid licensees so they can sell adult-use marijuana, and if so , when that will actually start and if any cities or towns choose to opt out this fall.

About Rachael Garcia

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