SUMMARY: The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act took effect immediately upon passage on January 3, 2006. The law removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess “written certification” from their physician stating, “In the practitioner’s professional opinion, the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient.” Patients diagnosed with the following illnesses are afforded legal protection under this act: cachexia; cancer; glaucoma; Hepatitis C; severe, debilitating, chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s Disease; or agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease. Other conditions are subject to approval by the Rhode Island Department of Health. Patients (and/or their primary caregivers) may legally possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 plants, and their cannabis must be stored in an indoor facility. The law establishes a mandatory, confidential state-run patient registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients. Patients who do not register with the Department of Health, but have received certification from their physician to use medicinal cannabis, may raise an affirmative defense at trial.

RECIPROCITY: Yes. Authorizes a patient with a debilitating medical condition, with a registry identification card (or its equivalent), to engage in the medical use of marijuana. Also authorizes a person to assist with the medical use of marijuana by a patient with a debilitating medical condition. R.I. Gen. Laws § 21-28.6-4(k) (2006).


In June 2007, the Rhode Island House and Senate enacted legislation eliminating the sunset clause of the The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, making the provisional program permanent


In 2009, lawmakers enacted legislation authorizing the establishment of state-licensed not-for-profit ‘compassion centers’ to “acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply or dispense marijuana, or related supplies and educational materials, to registered qualifying patients and their registered primary caregivers.” The Rhode Island Department of Health will oversee the licensing and regulating of these facilities. Copies of the regulations are available for public inspection in the Cannon Building, Room #201, Rhode Island Department of Health, 3 Capitol Hill, Providence, Rhode Island, on the Department’s website: or the Secretary of State’s website:, by calling             401-222-7767       or by e-mail to


In 2010, lawmakers enacted legislation, House Bill 8172, ensuring the confidentiality of medical marijuana patients’ records. The law states, in part, “Applications and supporting information submitted by qualifying patients, including information regarding their primary caregivers and practitioners, are confidential and protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and shall be exempt from the provisions of the RIGL chapter 38-2 et seq. the Rhode Island access to public records act and not subject to disclosure, except to authorized employees of the department as necessary to perform official duties of the department.”

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATUTES: The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 21-28.6 (2006).

CAREGIVERS: Yes. The caregiver must be 21 years of age or older.  Primary caregiver may assist no more than 5 qualifying patients with their medical use of marijuana. R.I. Gen. Laws 1956, §21-28.6-3 (9) (2006).

Application Forms are available at or by visiting room 104 at the Health Department, 3 Capitol Hill, Providence.

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