Rhode Island Bill Attempts To Prevent Cannabis Gatherings of More Than Three People

Six Rhode Island legislators have sponsored a bill that aims to fine groups of three or more people if cannabis or other “hallucinogenic substances” are present.

S-125 was introduced in Rhode Island on Feb. 1 by six senators: Sen. Walter Felag, Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, Sen. David Tikoian Sen. Frank Ciccone, Sen. Lou DiPalma, and Sen. Susan Sosnowski. If passed, the bill would make it illegal to have cannabis present in gatherings, which is defined in the bill as “where a group of three or more people have assembled or are assembling for a social occasion or social activity at a resident or premises.” For the first offense, offenders will be charged $500, followed by $750 for the second offense, and subsequent offenses set at $1,000.

Lovewell Farms, the state’s only USDA organic hemp farm, posted about the bill and its effect on residents on Feb. 11. “Red Alert! Check out this new cannabis bill introduced into @RISenate by Senators Felag, Raptakis, Tikoian, Ciccone, DiPalma, & Sosnoswki! It creates a monetary fine for hosting 3 or more people on private property to smoke “m*rijuana,” Lovewell Farms wrote.

The bill in its current form, would limit more than cannabis. It also includes other “Hallucinogenic Substances” such as ibogaine, peyote, and psilocybin.

Lovewell Farms also pointed out that Rhode Island’s adult-use cannabis sales began last year on Dec. 1, 2022, but a bill such as S-125 directly clashes with the current law. “Now, this is all very strange considering the State regulated adult use of cannabis last year,” Lovewell Farms continued. “In fact, in that bill it specifically prevents adults from being penalized for possession or consumption of cannabis—but that’s exactly what this new bill does!”

According to the 2022 Rhode Island Cannabis Act, the law protects residents who use cannabis for personal use. “Notwithstanding any other general or special law to the contrary, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person twenty-one (21) years of age or older shall not be arrested, prosecuted, penalized, sanctioned or disqualified under the laws of the state in any manner, or denied any right or privilege and shall not be subject to seizure or forfeiture of assets…”

Citing an ACLU Rhode Island report from 2014, Lovewell Farms addresses how a bill like this would negatively affect people who have already been targeted unjustly due to the War on Drugs. “Also keep in mind that Black people in Rhode Island are 8x more likely to be arrested (or fined) than non-Black people—that’s more than Ferguson, MO! What would implementation of this law look like? Probably disproportionate fines for people of color.”

Lovewell Farms calls for advocate action against the bill, providing data and contact information for the bill sponsors. “So PLEASE! Make a call to these Rhode Island State Senators listed below and let them know that this bill is terrible! We need to stop spending state & municipal funding chasing cannabis consumers. This is a waste of money—we have already decided adults are responsible enough!”

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee signed the state’s cannabis act into law in May 2022.

During the first week of adult-use sales in December 2022, Rhode Island collected $1.6 million in total revenue between recreational ($786,000) and medical ($845,400) sales.

In the recently released Americans for Safe Access 2022 State of the States report card, Rhode Island received a B- for the implementation of its medical cannabis program. “This year, Rhode Island doubled the number of dispensaries in the state,” the ASA wrote. “While this is a big boost to patients, Rhode Island policymakers should also be aware that more than 6 dispensary locations are necessary to serve medical cannabis patients in the state.”

Rhode Island is one of only two other states, Connecticut and Maryland, which received the same score (also the highest score provided to any states in the U.S. this year). Most other states earned C, D, and F scores.

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