If you’re already an Ocean State resident and can verify your residency, getting an MMJ card is relatively easy. The Rhode Island medical marijuana program is well-established compared to many of its counterparts.
The state first banned marijuana without a prescription in 1918. It then took RI almost 90 years to finally change its marijuana laws.
Senate Bill 0710, relating to medical marijuana use in Rhode Island, was first approved in June 2005. However, it was suspended for many months because of a veto. On 3 January 2006, the House ultimately overrode the veto. It passed what’s now known as the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act.
This guide outlines everything you need to do to get your valid MMJ license in a simple, easy-to-follow format.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Rhode Island
ALL applicants must submit a copy of one of the following to verify proof of Rhode Island residence when seeking an RI medical marijuana card:
- Rhode Island driver’s license
- State ID card
- Current car insurance bill
- Voter Registration Card
- Any correspondence from another state agency
Before you begin, please note that an RI MMP (Medicare-Medicaid Plan) will NOT cover the cost of MMJ. Both are federal programs, and cannabis remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, neither one will pay for your medical marijuana card. Under Medicaid, you are required to opt-in to prescription drug benefits in any case.
Incidentally, Medicaid will cover Epidiolex and dronabinol because they are both FDA-approved drugs.
Step 1 – Contact a Healthcare Provider
Get in touch with a healthcare practitioner. Not every physician in RI is willing to complete the Practitioner Form on your behalf. Therefore, you will need to research to find cannabis-friendly doctors. The form states that you have one of the qualifying conditions and that marijuana is a safe option.
During the consultation, the doctor will ask you a few questions about your health and determine whether MMJ will help you.
Make sure you take all relevant medical history forms with you to your initial MMJ consultation. Mainly, documentation stating that you have a qualifying medical condition. You also need a valid photo ID and the Patient Application Form.
During the consultation, which is often just 15 minutes long, the doctor will ask you a few questions about your health and determine whether MMJ will help you. Once the appointment is finished, they will complete a recommendation form for medical marijuana if they decide you are eligible. Remember, since marijuana is a federally illegal substance, the doctor can’t specifically prescribe the drug.
*Also, please note that physicians (MD/DO), Physician Assistants (PA), or Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) licensed in Rhode Island can fill out the form. If you are using a physician (MD/DO), those licensed in either Rhode Island, Connecticut, or Massachusetts, are eligible.
Step 2 – Register and Apply for the ID Card
The next phase involves completing the Patient Application Form online. The Rhode Island Department of Health clearly states it won’t accept forms via fax or email. You also need to provide a valid phone number and email address. This is to schedule a photo I.D. card if the department approves your application.
You should also find out if you are eligible for a reduced application fee. It may apply to applicants in receipt of one of the following:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
- Veteran’s Disability
- Federal Railroad Disability Benefit
If eligible, provide a photocopy of your Medicaid card, or letter, or other proof that you receive one of the above benefits.
Step 3 – Wait for Approval
You are done once you complete and submit the Practitioner Written Certification Form and the Patient Application Form. Most applications are either approved or denied within 14 days.
If approved, you are contacted to arrange an appointment to take your photograph for the ID card. Unlike in other states, Rhode Island prints the card out once you come in for the picture! Once you have the ID card, you can go to one of the state’s three dispensaries to purchase medical marijuana.
The steps outlined above are for an adult patient who is applying for medical marijuana in Rhode Island. There are different processes for those assigning caregivers or authorized purchasers (which we discuss in the final section). Applicants under the age of 18 (minors) must:
- Designate a parent or legal guardian as their primary caregiver or authorized purchaser.
- Complete the appropriate sections on the application form.
Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Costs?
It costs $50 to apply for an MMJ card in Rhode Island. If you qualify for a reduction, the fee drops to $25. The average cost of a doctor’s consultation is between $200 and $300. Some brands offer a service that covers everything for as little as $199. The annual caregiver fee is $100. It costs $10 to replace your card if it is lost or stolen.
What Conditions Qualify for a Medical Marijuana Card in Rhode Island?
The following is a list of qualifying conditions if you want to receive Rhode Island medical marijuana:
- Cancer (or treatment including chemotherapy and radiation)
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Hepatitis C
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Severe, debilitating, chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures (including those characteristic of epilepsy)
- Severe muscle spasms (including those associated with multiple sclerosis)
- Crohn’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- PTSD (must be 18 or older)
Other Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Laws
So, what else do you need to know about getting an MMJ card in Rhode Island? Here are some frequently asked questions relating to RI marijuana laws.
What Is the Situation with Caregivers & Authorized Purchasers?
In Rhode Island, MMJ patients are permitted to choose a caregiver. You can also select an Authorized Purchaser who can buy cannabis on your behalf. You can designate one of each. A caregiver helps you use the MMJ responsibly and is allowed up to five patients. However, an authorized purchaser can only support one patient.
While caregivers must also provide proof of state residency, you can choose an authorized provider who lives outside of Rhode Island.
Only those aged 21+ can become a caregiver or authorized provider in RI. They must also submit to a criminal background check. While caregivers must also provide proof of state residency, you can choose an authorized provider who lives outside of Rhode Island. The caregiver application process takes 2-4 weeks from the date the DOH receives it.
Can I Grow Marijuana at Home with an MMJ Card?
Yes, although you need to declare your intent to grow/cultivate marijuana on the application form. You also need to register the grow location with the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation. You are permitted to have twelve plants and twelve seedlings in a single area if you get approved.
How Much Cannabis Can I Buy & Possess?
The limit is currently set at 2.5 ounces of ‘usable’ marijuana. According to dispensary regulations, patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces every 15 days.
How Do I Renew My MMJ Card in Rhode Island?
Your Rhode Island medical marijuana card is valid for one year. Both you and your physician should receive a renewal form between 30 and 60 days before the expiration date. If you don’t receive this form and are aware that your expiration date is coming up, email the Rhode Island Registry to request the renewal form.
Next, you must schedule an evaluation with your physician to reassess your condition. They will determine if you still require medical marijuana. You can then submit the updated paperwork to the RI Department of Health. You don’t need to get a new photo at the point of renewal. Your existing ID photo is used on your new license.
Where Can I Purchase Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island?
There are only three active dispensaries in operation in Rhode Island. They are:
- Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth)
- Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center (Providence)
- Summit Medical Compassion Center (Warwick)
The rapid rise in cannabis sales prompted the state government to act. In 2019, it announced its intention to allow six new dispensaries to open in the state. In December 2020, 28 companies submitted 45 applications hoping to become part of the MMJ revolution in RI. However, delays to the program have left these organizations frustrated.
While it is a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if,’ no one is sure when the new licenses will be awarded. As a result, Rhode Island residents must wait a little longer to have an even greater choice of marijuana dispensaries.
Where Can I Use Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island?
It is illegal to use cannabis in a public place. All MMJ patients must consume it at home or in a private residence. Possession of less than an ounce is now decriminalized. It is a civil violation that carries a fine of $150. The possession of over an ounce is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $500 fine. You don’t enter felony territory until you are caught with more than one kilogram of cannabis.
Does Rhode Island Have Reciprocity Laws?
Yes. MMJ patients from other states are welcome to buy medical cannabis in RI. This is as long as you have proof of certification from your home state.
Final Thoughts on Getting a Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Card
The process of getting a Rhode Island MMJ card is quite straightforward. However, the fact there are only three licensed dispensaries is potentially a problem for some patients. However, things will get even easier when the state government finally awards the six additional licenses up for grabs.
It is also worth noting that Rhode Island could soon legalize recreational marijuana. In June 2021, the state Senate approved full legalization for adults. Now, the bill heads to the House of Representatives, where it is likely to be passed. While state lawmakers will take time to ensure the new law is right for Rhode Island, it seems inevitable that adult-use cannabis will become a reality in RI.