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The History of Marijuana in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has a history with marijuana that dates back to 1918, when the state first banned marijuana without a prescription. The state’s marijuana prohibition came just after New York issued the first instance of marijuana regulation in 1914, which The New York Times supported, “[T]he inclusion of cannabis indica among the drugs to be sold only on prescription is only common sense. Devotees of hashish are now hardly numerous enough here to count, but they are likely to increase as other narcotics become harder to obtain.” People who violated the law faced penalties including a fine and jail time both for those in possession of marijuana and selling marijuana.

After the state passed the prohibition law, it took Rhode Island nearly another hundred years to finally change its marijuana laws. In 2006, the Rhode Island General Assembly overrode Governor Donald Carcieri’s veto to enact the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. Now, patients can register for medical marijuana with their doctor’s recommendation and they’re able to purchase their medicine at local medical marijuana dispensaries. By 2012, state lawmakers approved decriminalizing marijuana, which went into effect in April 2013, so marijuana possession is now considered a civil penalty, though state lawmakers are still fighting for full legalization in Rhode Island.


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