Will Rhode Island legalize marijuana in 2018?

If you are a Rhode Island resident who enjoys smoking an occasional joint, you probably are keeping your eye on how the “fight” to legalize marijuana in our state is going. Rather well, actually.

Just this past week, Rep. Scott Slater filed a bill in the Rhode Island House of Representatives which, if passed, will allow you to cast your vote this November to end cannabis prohibition in this state. His proposed ballot question asks whether or not you support the legalized possession and use of marijuana by people age 21 and older. If you vote yes, you agree that the Rhode Island marijuana industry, which is sure to explode, will be regulated and taxed similar to the way in which alcohol and tobacco are.

Be aware, however, that even if you and a majority of other Rhode Island voters vote yes, this does not guarantee that recreational marijuana will, in fact, become legalized here. The November vote is a nonbinding advisory statutory referendum only. The legislature would still have to pass a legalization bill and the governor would have to sign it into law.

Current marijuana law

In the meantime, only medical marijuana is legal in Rhode Island. If your doctor has approved your medical marijuana use, you can possess up to 2.5 ounces of it and/or grow up to 12 marijuana plants indoors.

Possessing recreational marijuana, however, is still a crime in Rhode Island. If convicted, you could face the following penalties:

  • Under one ounce: civil offense with maximum fine of $150
  • More than one ounce but less than one kilogram: misdemeanor with maximum fine of $500 and/or maximum jail sentence of one year
  • Over one kilogram: presumed intent to sell (felony) with up to $1 million fine and/or up to 20 years in prison depending on the quantity

Consequently, if you face criminal charges for marijuana possession in the foreseeable future, the first thing you should do is consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your freedom is at stake and you need an aggressive attorney defending your rights.

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Nicholas J. Hemond Attorney at Law
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