The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act was passed by the state legislature and signed into law on January 3, 2006 and went into effect immediately. The bill’s sunset clause was removed on renewal of the law in 2007. Not-for-profit compassion centers for the distribution of medical cannabis were authorized by law in 2009. Licensing of the centers is done by the Rhode Island Department of Health. Gov. Lincoln Chafee suspended licensing of compassion centers in October 2011 in response to threats from federal prosecutors, then resumed the program in January 2012 after background checks and additional plant limits were added to the licensing requirements. 

Patients with a Rhode Island registry ID card may use, possess, and cultivate cannabis for medical purposes. Patients may also appoint up to two primary caregivers for assistance or designate a compassion center as one of the caregivers. The Rhode Island Department of Health will verify patient and caregiver registry ID numbers as valid for law enforcement. Qualified patients and caregivers are entitled to an affirmative defense at trial or dismissal of charges upon demonstrating that they were in compliance. Any property seized in connection with qualified medical use of cannabis is to be returned.

Regulations for Rhode Island’s Medical Marijuana Program were first issued in January 2006. They have since been revised 7 times, the most recent revisions taking place in December 2012. Rules on fees for the program are found separately in the Rules and Regulations Pertaining to the Fee Structure for Licensing, Laboratory and Administrative Services Provided by the Department of Health.

2014 saw the passage of H 7610 which placed restrictions on cooperative cultivation, requiring criminal background checks for caregivers, and requiring the permanent revocation or disqualification of patients who have been convicted of a felony under Rhode Island or any other state's Controlled Substances Act.

In 2016, the DOH made several positive changes to the program including creating a new cultivator license to help deal with product shortages. The legislature passed H 7142 which adds PTSD as a qualifying condition. 


The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act (2006)

H 7610 (2014)


Rules and Regulations Pertaining to the Medical Marijuana Program

Fee Structure (see page A-8)


State of Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Marijuana Program