Learn how the Rhode Island Cannabis Act effects both prior and new cannabis-related arrests
As soon as December 1, 2022, adults aged 21 and older can walk into any licensed dispensary in Rhode Island and legally purchase pot and other marijuana-related products. It is important to understand that even though recreational marijuana was legalized in May 2022, you can still get arrested for marijuana-related offenses, including possession, intent to distribute and DUI. If you are worried about a prior marijuana arrest on your record, there’s action you can take now to expunge your record. In this blog, Rhode Island Criminal Defense and Expungement Lawyer Ann Sheeley discusses what legalization means for both prior and new marijuana-related arrests in Rhode Island, and what you can do right now to clear your name. As always, Sheeley Law is here for you 24/7 for a free consultation to answer your specific questions.
The Rhode Island Cannabis Act – What is now legal and what is still illegal?
To summarize this new and sweeping law (the “Act”), individuals 21 years of age or older may legally:
Purchase up to one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana at a time (or the equivalent of one ounce of concentrate) from a licensed retailer.
Possess up to ten ounces per person inside their primary residence.
Give away or “gift” up to one ounce of cannabis to another adult aged 21 years or older, as long as there is no exchange of payment/fee/compensation.
Possess cannabis-related accessories.
Grow up to three marijuana plants in their primary residence. It is important to know that adults are not permitted to possess more than three “mature” plants and three “immature” plants at a time, regardless of how many persons reside on the premises.
The Act still imposes restrictions on the personal use of cannabis and penalties for individual violations. For example, if you are arrested for possessing more than one ounce outside of your primary residence, or more than 10 ounces within your primary residence, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. Possession over one kilogram or cultivating seven plants or more is not considered “for personal use,” and under the new law, you may be charged with “intent to distribute,” which a felony, punishable by 10 or more years of incarceration and a six-figure fine. Delivering to a minor under the age of 18 is punishable by five years of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine.
Can I smoke marijuana in public now?
That depends. Smoking marijuana will be banned everywhere cigarette smoking is now banned. However, that could change. The law includes language that gives communities the ability to enact ordinances restricting or banning “smoking or vaporizing of cannabis in public places.”
Can I get arrested for a DUI if I smoked pot and am pulled over while driving?
Absolutely. Rhode Island has a zero tolerance “drugged driving’ law enacted for cannabis and other controlled substances. Under the eyes of the law, a person can be found guilty of a DUI if he or she drives while under the influence of drugs, or any controlled substance for that matter, as determined with a tested positive blood or urine sample.
What if I was arrested prior to legalization?
Although Rhode Island decriminalized minor marijuana possession offenses to a fine-only penalty in 2013, anyone who was previously convicted of a cannabis-related crime faces numerous struggles to land a job, find housing, secure loans, become professionally licensed and receive government benefits. One of the most significant provisions of the new law is the automatic expungements of certain marijuana-related convictions beginning July 1, 2024. When a record is expunged, it results in the deletion of any and all mention of that arrest or criminal charge, as if it never occurred. With a few exceptions, once a court grants you an expungement, you will never have to disclose that you were convicted of that specific crime.
What marijuana charges can now qualify for expungement?
Under the new law, any prior civil violation, misdemeanor or felony conviction for possession of marijuana that is now decriminalized is eligible for expungement. Larger offenses, such as intent to deliver or manufacture, are currently ineligible for expungement.
Convictions involving multiple charges are more complex. Typically, cases can only be expunged as a whole and not for individual charges. However, lawmakers decided to allow a marijuana possession charge to be isolated and expunged, even if the rest of the charges pertaining to the case are not eligible for expungement.
Unlike most expungements in Rhode Island which have specific eligibility requirements and waiting periods, marijuana possession charges can now be expunged even if you’ve had prior arrests and convictions, pending criminal proceedings or outstanding fines, fees or court costs.
How do I get my marijuana criminal charge expunged?
Getting arrested with marijuana in Rhode Island is quite a different situation today than it was in the past. If you’re concerned about having a prior criminal marijuana arrest record, you do not have to wait two years to get your record expunged. Since each person’s circumstances are unique, we recommend that you contact Sheeley Law to see if you are eligible. Attorney Ann Sheeley will review your records and help you determine your next steps for the best possible outcome. If you meet the eligibility requirements under the new law, we will draft, file, and argue the motion on your behalf. Attorney Sheeley will handle all aspects of your expungement, alleviating you of any stress or anxiety you may feel about appearing in court.
If you have a previous marijuana-related conviction, Sheeley Law can help you navigate the new law and assist you with removing the charges from your criminal records. If you happen to violate the provisions of the new law and get arrested for a marijuana-related crime, Sheeley Law will protect your rights and fight hard to get your charges reduced, your penalties lessened, or even get your case dismissed.
Attorney Ann Sheeley has more than 25 years of experience helping people expunge their records in order to keep their private life private and protect their future. We offer a free consultation and are available to you 24/7 by calling 401-619-5555 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.