Some states on the East Coast, including Maine and Vermont had marijuana legalization measures included on ballots for the 2016 election. Other states like Massachusetts and Maine were recently successful in their efforts to legalize marijuana.
This year, it is likely that cannabis legalization will be added to the ballot and the chances of it passing look better now than before. Polling now shows that more than 60% of Rhode Island residents favor marijuana legalization. The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act is a proposal that will regulate and tax marijuana in a way that is similar to alcohol. This would generate substantial revenue for the state of Rhode Island.
Back in 2017, the state created a legislative commission to evaluate the impact of recreational marijuana legalization. The board is expected to release its recommendations for how a Rhode Island legal cannabis market should function.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Rhode Island since 2006, and the state has also decriminalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis for recreational users. This means that people who are stopped for smoking a joint won’t receive jail time. However, it is still illegal to smoke cannabis in public areas.
Penalties for Possessing Marijuana
While cannabis is decriminalized, it is still illegal for people without a medical cannabis license to possess marijuana. Penalties for possessing marijuana include:
- Under 1 Ounce: $ 150 fine, no time in jail and no criminal record
- 1 Ounce to 1 Kilogram: $500 fine and up to 1-year prison
Having any amount of marijuana that is over 1 ounce can be considered possession with intent to distribute. The penalties for possession with intent to distribute include:
- 1 to 5 Kilograms: $100,000 fine and mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years to up to 50 years
- Over 5 Kilograms: $500,000 fine and mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison
- Within 300 Yards of School: Penalties are doubled
- While Driving: Suspension of driver’s license for 6 moths
Possession of concentrates and hashish fall under the same definition and penalties as the plant. Patients in the Rhode Island medical cannabis program can legally have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in their possession.