Rhode Island Marijuana Law Part II

As states continue to loosen once restrictive laws governing marijuana, people who support the recreational and medicinal use of the drug are confronted with complex and confusing statutes. In our last blog, we discussed Rhode Island’s decision to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. We also reviewed the serious fines and potential jail time for anyone who possesses more than proscribed statutory amount. So, what about those individuals who use marijuana for medical purposes and the individuals who are responsible for providing it?  The Rhode Island Marijuana Lawyers at Abilheira Law answer this question in today’s blog.

In response to the growing use of marijuana as treatment for certain debilitating medical conditions, Rhode Island has instituted the “Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act”. Under the Act, a qualified patient in possession of a registry card can possess a maximum of twelve (12) seedlings, a maximum of twelve (12) mature marijuana plants and a maximum of two and one-half (2.5) ounces of usable marijuana. Qualified patients enjoy certain protections under the Act and cannot be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner for the medical use of marijuana, so long as they do not exceed the statutory amount.
Similarly, primary caregivers can possess twelve (12) seedlings, twelve (12) mature plants and two and one-half (2.5) ounces of usable marijuana for each qualifying patient. It is important to note that primary caregivers are limited to a total of twenty-four (24) plants and five (5) ounces of usable marijuana. Primary caregivers also enjoy the same protections as qualified patients and cannot be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner for assisting a qualified patient.
Both patients and caregivers may assert the medical purpose for which they are using marijuana as a defense to any prosecution involving the drug. This affirmative defense will be presumed valid where the evidence shows
  1. The qualifying patient’s doctor states that the potential benefits of the patient using medical marijuana outweigh the health risks
  2. The patient and/or caregiver were not in possession of more marijuana than what is permitted under the statute
Unfortunately for patients and caregivers, this defense can only be used once prosecution for the alleged crime has commenced. For qualified patients, something as simple as a traffic stop can result in prosecution if the officer has reason to believe you are in possession of marijuana. For caregivers, a meddling neighbor who notices bright lights and ventilation pipes or a curious police officer who smells what he believes to be marijuana can also result in an unwelcome interaction with local law enforcement.

Whether you are a qualified patient or a caregiver, it is important to know the limits of the statute and how you can use the statue to defend yourself in court. The aggressive and experienced marijuana attorneys at Abilheira Law can ensure that you are in compliance with the statute and are not at risk for future prosecution. If you are a patient or caregiver currently facing prosecution for an alleged violation of the medical marijuana statute in Rhode Island, the attorneys at Abilheira Law will fight to ensure you do not face substantial fines, potential jail time, and a loss of your qualified patient or qualified caregiver status. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.