ri marijuana legalization 2020

These States Will Be The Next To Legalize Marijuana

Hopes were at an all-time high for sweeping cannabis policy reform and industry expansion as 2019 turned into 2020. With widespread, and bi-partisan, public support, the MORE ACT passing the House Judiciary Committee, and the prospect of nearly a dozen cannabis policy votes in 2020, there was plenty of reason for optimism. I even wrote in this column that “2020 was shaping up to be the biggest year ever for marijuana policy reform.”

All bets were off when the Covid-19 pandemic plunged us into global uncertainty this past spring. Individuals, families, and corporations were left scrambling towards a proverbial “new normal,” with the majority of policy initiatives taking a backseat to the public health crisis demanding our attention. This meant that qualifying ballot initiatives became vastly more challenging, with traditional signature gathering, and the amount of social contact it requires, no longer considered acceptable or safe. Montana ordered 150,000 pens so each petition signer could have their own. Other states, however, weren’t so lucky, with Arkansas unable to meet their July 3rd signature deadline for adult- use cannabis legalization and Idaho preemptively anticipating the same fate, opting to suspend their medical cannabis campaign in early April (they needed 55,057 by May 1 to qualify). California, Missouri and Nebraska also saw cannabis related policy efforts halted by Covid-19.

(Photo by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Efforts to legalize cannabis in state legislatures similarly suffered, with state legislatures shutting down for months at a time, and most only reconvening virtually to handle essential business. Anticipated legislative pushes to legalize in states like New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Mexico all stalled due to Covid-19 related legislative paralysis.

In spite of numerous policy hurdles, cannabis business was deemed essential, with states allowing dispensaries to stay open at a time when nearly all other establishments were forced to shutter; a green beacon of hope in the dismal socially distanced spring and tumultuous summer. Now, as we enter a historically tense election season, cannabis sales are continuing towards new heights, with record- setting months in Illinois, Colorado and Ohio (medical) this summer.

(Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

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The Future Of Marijuana Under Biden and a GOP Senate

The people want pot. And while many efforts to open up new states to cannabis freedom were thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic, we could still see major changes to the legal cannabis landscape by year’s end. Last year I predicted that as many as six state legislatures may legalize adult- use cannabis and sadly, because of Covid-19, it appears there is only a chance for one to do so.

Vermont’s legislature agreed to a final compromise on S. 54, which had previously passed both the Senate and the House in different forms. At the time of this writing, the bill sits at the desk of Gov. Phil Scott, who has not yet indicated publicly whether he will sign it. In addition to Vermont, there are four states with adult-use cannabis legalization measures up for vote via ballot initiative this election. South Dakota sits uniquely with 2020 ballot initiatives for both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization; and Mississippians will also vote on medical cannabis ballot initiatives come November 3rd. Here is a rundown of the states best positioned to end cannabis prohibition this year.


Smart and Safe Arizona, Proposition 207, would legalize adult- use cannabis in Arizona as well as allow for those convicted previously of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana or six or fewer plants or paraphernalia to petition to have their records expunged. After a narrow initiative defeat in 2016, the campaign announced the delivery of 420,000(!) signatures of support to the Secretary of State’s office in July and officially qualified in August for the November ballot. If approved, “early applicants,” which are either existing medical marijuana establishments in good standing or applicants seeking to locate a business in a county with fewer than two existing medical marijuana establishments, will be licensed first. For a full summary of the Arizona Prop 207 visit Marijuana Policy Project.

PHOENIX, AZ – AUGUST 04: People walk back to their car after voting during Arizona’s primary . [+] election at Burton Barr Central Library on August 4, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Larger venues have been catered to allow for social distancing as adjustments are made in light of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

Advocacy group New Approach Montana submitted signatures of support for two complementary ballot initiatives which were approved by the Montana Secretary of State in August. The first, I-190, would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis in Montana. The second, CI-118, would set the legal minimum age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana at 21. For a full summary of the Montana ballot initiatives visit Marijuana Policy Project.

New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Amendment (S2703/A4497) would amend the state constitution to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It would also legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail cannabis and would take effect on January 1, 2021. The new law would also create an online portal which would allow for an expedited expungement process. There are many details left to be decided by the State Legislature in the language of the Amendment, including how stores will be licensed (and how many), as well as possession limits and home grow provisions. If the Amendment does pass, New Jersey will become the first Mid-Atlantic state to legalize cannabis for all adult consumers.


This November, South Dakota will become the first state to ever vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization at the same time. As is laid out by Marijuana Policy Project, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is championing a constitutional initiative (Amendment A) to tax and regulate marijuana. They are working alongside New Approach South Dakota, which is supporting a statutory medical marijuana measure. Both initiatives work together and support one another. South Dakota has among the harshest cannabis penalties in the nation, including a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for possession, making their legalization effort all the more imperative. South Dakota is also the only state with an “internal possession” law, meaning individuals can be forcibly drug tested and arrested if illegal drugs are found in their system – even cannabis consumed in a legal state while on vacation. Amendment A does not currently create a limit on licenses and vests the power to grant cannabis licenses of all kinds, including retail, processing, cultivation and testing, to the Department of Revenue. For the full text of Amendment A visit Marijuana Policy Project.

South Dakota will be the first state ever to vote on medical and adult-use cannabis ballot . [+] initiatives at the same time.


Mississippi will put two competing ballot initiatives for medical cannabis in front of voters on November 3rd. One, Initiative 65, is championed by Mississippians for Compassionate Care, who gathered 268,000+ signatures in order for the measure to be approved for the November ballot. Initiative 65A was submitted by state legislators after Initiative 65 was approved and seeks to install limited license caps and vest more control to the state over most major cannabis regulations.

Nothing is certain, in life or in business, and while cannabis legalization might seem increasingly inevitable, if 2020 has shown us anything, it’s to be prepared for any and all outcomes. While the United State’s prepares for a divisive election season, keep an eye on these key cannabis races as well.

The people want pot. And while many efforts to open up new states to cannabis freedom were thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic, we could still see major changes to the legal cannabis landscape by year’s end.

Rhode Island Marijuana Laws

Updated September 2019

Rhode Island has already become one of the more progressive states in regard to marijuana policy reform. The state has a strong medical marijuana program in place and has decriminalized simple possession of recreational marijuana. Learn more about Rhode Island marijuana laws below.

Recreational Marijuana in Rhode Island

Like many of the more progressive states, Rhode Island has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for individuals 18 years and older. Those caught with less than 1 ounce are subject only to a $150 fine, with no possibility of incarceration or record of a crime being committed. Possession of more than 1 ounce up to 1 kilogram is still a misdemeanor, but possession of greater amounts is considered “intent to distribute” and charged as a felony. Unregistered cultivation and sale of any amount of marijuana are also felonies.

Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island

Medical marijuana has been legal in Rhode Island since January 3rd of 2006, after state lawmakers overturned Gov. Don Carcieri’s veto of Senate Bill 710. The law allows patients with approved conditions to register with the state and legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. Under the law, patients are also legally allowed to cultivate up to 12 plants and 12 seedlings.

In July 2016, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a law expanding the medical marijuana list of approved conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In October 2018, the Department of Health announced that Rhode Island families can now access medical marijuana to treat autism.

There are currently three medical marijuana dispensaries, referred to as compassion centers, operating in Rhode Island.

Medical marijuana is now approved for the following conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Autism
  • Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Severe, Debilitating or Chronic Pain
  • Seizure Disorders and Epilepsy
  • Severe and Persistent Muscle Spasms
  • Severe Nausea

CBD from Hemp Oil in Rhode Island

Hemp-derived CBD products are legal under Federal Law in the United States; however, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.

Cultivation and Distribution of Cannabis in Rhode Island

The cultivation of cannabis for personal or medical purposes is still a serious crime in Pennsylvania. Growing just 1 or 2 plants is a misdemeanor that can warrant a jail sentence of 6 months to 2 years and fines of $500 to $2000.

In July 2016, Gov. Raimondo signed House Bill 8232, which legalized the production and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes in the state. The bill was to initially only applyto state-licensed representatives of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, but was eventually amended to apply to all Rhode Island residents. The bill went into effect January 1, 2017.

Legal Status of Other U.S. States

Stay up to date on the latest state legislation, referendums, and public opinion polls. Our Marijuana Legalization Map allows you to browse the current status of medical and recreational marijuana laws in other U.S. states and territories.



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With more states legalizing the use of marijuana it can be hard to stay up to date on Rhode Island marijuana laws. Click to learn more about marijuana laws in RI!