How Can We Help?

Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.

Rhode Island Marijuana Lawyer

Rhode Island marijuana laws are constantly changing and evolving every single year.  Less than 10 years ago, any marijuana possession was a criminal offense and could subject a person to criminal prosecution. 

A criminal marijuana charge could be brought for simple possession of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, delivery of marijuana, and cultivation of marijuana. 

Today, Rhode Island medical marijuana law legalizes cannabis possession for eligible patients and a primary caregiver , and has established marijuana legalization for possession of cannabis in small amounts, for personal use and recreational use. 

This is why it is critical to have legal representation by an experienced and knowledgeable RI criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with any marijuana drug possession case.  

Call Rhode Island Marijuana Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esquire today for a free consultation  at 401.861.1155 for your best marijuana defense

Rhode Island law enforcement arrests or tickets more people for criminal marijuana offenses and civil marijuana offenses than for any other controlled substance drug possession crime.

In fact, the Providence Journal reported that Rhode Islanders use more cannabis than anywhere else in the country. Twenty percent of people in Rhode Island said they possessed and used recreational marijuana in the last year. 

Often, possession of cannabis in a motor vehicle can also lead to DUI charge as well if the police believe a person is driving under the influence of marijuana, under DUI law.

Penalties for Rhode Island Marijuana Charges 

Penalties for marijuana offenses in Rhode Island can be harsh.  Depending on the criminal drug possession charges against you, the potential penalties under Rhode Island marijuana laws include jail, fines, suspended sentence, probation and community service. 

RI prosecutors take these cannabis charges seriously and your defense attorney should too.  If you have been charged with a marijuana misdemeanor or felony, you want the best legal representation you can find. 

A knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer will give you the best chance at defeating the criminal prosecution and help you avoid a criminal record.  

Possession of Marijuana for Personal Use

These marijuana possession offenses are commonly referred to as a “simple possession” drug charge, and are NOT considered criminal offenses under Rhode Island marijuana laws, and do not subject a person to criminal court or criminal prosecution. 

A first offense or second offense cannabis possession charge of up to one ounce by an individual 18 years or older is a civil violation, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, community service and no criminal record. 

However, a third offense marijuana charge within 18 months is considered a misdemeanor drug possession crime which could result in jail and community service.  

Possession of 1 ounce to 1 kilogram of marijuana is a misdemeanor marijuana crime which is punishable by a maximum of 1 year imprisonment, community service, a maximum fine of $500, and results in a criminal record requiring expungement at some point in the future. 

Legal representation and legal advice by an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney gives you the best chance at avoiding these penalties for simple marijuana possession in District Court.

Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute

If you have been arrested by police and charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute you are in immediate need of the best Rhode Island marijuana lawyer. 

Not all criminal defense attorneys are the same, not even close, and the outcome of RI marijuana cases vary greatly depending on your criminal defense attorney’s effectiveness, or ineffectiveness. 

These drug possession cases are considered felony narcotics offenses, and are taken very seriously by law enforcement, prosecutors and courts. 

If the police have charged you with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute they are basically charging you with being a drug dealer in that you possessed a large amount of cannabis and intended to distribute that marijuana to others:

  • Cannabis possession of an amount between 1-5 kilograms is a felony criminal marijuana charge punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum of 50 years imprisonment, and a maximum fine of $500,000.
  • Marijuana possession of more than 5 kilograms is a felony criminal offense punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and a maximum fine of $100,000.
  • Marijuana delivery or possession with intent to deliver marijuana within 300 yards of a school may result in a doubling of the penalties.
  • Marijuana possession of any amount while driving will result in a driver’s license suspension for a period of 6 months.  Law enforcement can also charge a person with a DUI charge (driving under the influence of cannabis) if they believe a person was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.  As a DUI lawyer my law office has successfully defended many marijuana DUI charges for deserving clients.  Check out the DUI page for more information on RI DUI law, DUI defense and DUI cases. 

Sale, Delivery or Cultivation of Marijuana

Given the progress made with RI’s medical marijuana law (see below), many people are now legally cultivating their own medical cannabis plants for medical use or recreational use. 

Inevitably, people are unfamiliar with the limitations to growing marijuana in the law, and end up being arrested for possession of too many cannabis plants. 

If the police or law enforcement has charged you with the sale, delivery or cultivation of marijuana it is critical to hire an experienced RI marijuana attorney.  

I have handled marijuana law and marijuana cases for 27+ years in every courthouse in the state of Rhode Island. 

A knowledgeable and experienced marijuana lawyer will give you the best legal advice and the best chance of defeating these drug crimes and avoid any jail time on these serious felony drug offenses, and protect your criminal record. 

Many defense attorneys are not as familiar with the details of criminal law and marijuana crimes, or simply do not have the background and experience to provide you with the aggressive legal representation required in felony marijuana sale, delivery or cultivation cases.  

  • Sale, delivery or marijuana cultivation of less than 1 kilogram is a felony drug charge punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100,000, and a criminal record.
  • Sale, delivery or marijuana cultivation of between 1-5 kilograms is felony marijuana charge punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of 50 years imprisonment as well as a maximum fine of $500,000 and a criminal record requiring expungement at a future date.
  • Sale, delivery or marijuana cultivation of 5 kilograms or more is a felony drug charge punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment as well as a maximum fine of $500,000 and a criminal record requiring expungement at a future date.
  • Delivery of marijuana to a minor at least three years younger than the offender is a felony drug charge carrying with it the additional penalty of between 2-5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000 and a criminal record requiring expungement at a future date.
  • Sale of cannabis or marijuana possession within 300 yards of a school, public park, or playground is a felony drug case and doubles the penalties.

Hash & Concentrates

Hashish, marijuana edibles and marijuana concentrates fall under the definition of cannabis.  


  • The manufacture, sale, delivery, or possession with the intent to sell or deliver paraphernalia is punishable by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) and up to two (2) years imprisonment.
  • Any person eighteen (18) years of age or over who delivers drug paraphernalia to a person under eighteen (18) years of age shall be subject to a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) and imprisonment not to exceed five (5) years.

Miscellaneous Penalties

  • Marijuana possession while operating a motor vehicle will result in loss of driving privileges (license suspension) for a period of 6 months and community service.  Depending on the facts and circumstances of the arrest, possessing cannabis while operating a motor vehicle can also result in a DUI charge under RI DUI law. 
  • If the offense involves the use of any automobile to transport the marijuana or the marijuana is found within an automobile, then a person convicted or who pleads nolo contendere to one of the above-listed felony cannabis charges in court may be subject to forfeiture of the motor vehicle if prosecutors and law enforcement can prove the motor vehicle was used in the commission of a drug offense.

 Defenses for Rhode Island Marijuana Charges

There are many ways a skilled and experienced Rhode Island marijuana defense lawyer can defend your marijuana possession case. 

All criminal defense attorneys are NOT the same, and the outcome in your marijuana criminal case can vary greatly depending on the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of your criminal defense lawyer. 

I have been handling RI marijuana cases for 27+ years as both a prosecutor and a marijuana defense lawyer and this experience has allowed me a wealth of knowledge and strategies simply unavailable to the average RI criminal attorney.   

Search Warrants

Many RI marijuana possession cases and criminal charges begin with law enforcement obtaining a search warrant from a judge for a location, motor vehicle or person whom they suspect of marijuana possession, marijuana possession with intent to distribute or cultivation of marijuana. 

The police must present a sworn affidavit to a judge which details the investigation and reasons why they are seeking the warrant in order to obtain the search warrant. 

An experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer knows how to attack search warrant requests, the structure and inconsistencies of the warrant and the execution of the warrant.  

RI criminal law provides many strategies for a marijuana attorney to defend your criminal case by attacking the validity of the search warrant.

Automobile Search and Seizure Law 

Rhode Island law enforcement officials also make numerous marijuana arrests after stopping motor vehicles for traffic infractions. 

An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney knows the ins and outs of RI search and seizure law and can successfully have the marijuana suppressed (thrown out of court) as a result of an illegal stop or an illegal search of the motor vehicle by police. 

In fact, Rhode Island law enforcement is well-known for setting up surveillance posts on route 95 in order to try and catch marijuana distributors. 

As a criminal defense lawyer with 27+ years of experience with RI marijuana law and marijuana criminal charges, there is nothing I have not seen or defended in District Court or Superior Court. 

Check out motor vehicle stops to see more information about Rhode Island State Police motor vehicle stops on route 95 which led to marijuana possession distribution arrests.

Medical Marijuana Law 

Given recent changes in societal views on marijuana legalization and recreational marijuana use, many states including Rhode Island have enacted medical cannabis use laws, and recreational cannabis use laws, allowing the medical use and recreational use of cannabis for persons holding a medical marijuana card.  This is the first step toward marijuana legalization.  

This medical marijuana use law allows a RI medical marijuana cardholder to possess cannabis for recreational use and/or cultivate marijuana in order to treat a serious medical problem. 

This law is a defense to any law enforcement allegation of criminal activity involving marijuana possession.  However, this law is complicated and very restricted. 

An experienced and skillful criminal defense attorney can provide the expert legal advice to make this process much easier to navigate, including acquiring a medical marijuana card or becoming a primary caregiver.  

You can read the full Rhode Island marijuana laws, but the main points are bulleted below.

  • Must be a qualifying medical marijuana cardholder.  Here is the link to the RI Department of Health medical marijuana program to learn about getting a medical cannabis card or a primary caregiver.
  • A medical marijuana cardholder is allowed to lawfully possess 12 mature medical marijuana plants (flowering) and 12 immature medical marijuana plants (not yet flowering).  These are for people who want to cultivate their own medical marijuana or are acting as a primary caregiver.
  • A medical marijuana cardholder is allowed to lawfully possess two and one-half ounces (2.5 oz.) of dried medical cannabis.  This medical marijuana can be purchased at any one of 3 medical marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island.

As you can see, the RI medical marijuana law has a lot of moving parts and a medical cannabis patient could easily run afoul of all of these regulations and end up with a criminal case or fraud charge. 

Having worked with this medical marijuana law since its beginning, I have the necessary knowledge and experience as a criminal defense attorney to provide your best marijuana defense.

How do I Become a Medical Marijuana Patient?

It is actually a pretty easy process to become a medical marijuana patient.  First, you must have a qualifying medical condition to become a medical cannabis patient. 

This is the list of qualifying medical conditions accepted under Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law, with the majority citing chronic pain:

  • Cancer or the treatment of this condition
  • Glaucoma or the treatment of this condition
  • Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or the treatment of this condition
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or the treatment of this condition
  • Hepatitis C or the treatment of this condition
  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
    • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
    • Severe, debilitating, chronic pain
    • Severe nausea
    • Seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
    • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease
    • Agitation related to Alzheimer’s Disease

If you have one of these qualifying conditions for the medical marijuana license, a doctor must then prescribe marijuana as a treatment for that condition. 

If your doctor is reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana as a treatment, clients of my law firm have utilized outside companies such as Canna Care, who have doctors ready to prescribe medical marijuana to appropriate medical marijuana patients.  Check out this link to Canna Care.


  • Former Rhode Island State Prosecutor
  • Judges, Lawyers and Police Officers refer family and friends
  • 27+ years of experience as a Rhode Island criminal lawyer
  • I have handled 1000’s of marijuana criminal cases, marijuana criminal charges, and defended against marijuana criminal convictions  
  • 300+ Five Star online reviews across all platforms
  • Aggressive, experienced and personal representation of all clients in criminal cases.
  • My law office has strong and long-standing relationships with all Rhode Island Judges, law enforcement and prosecutors 
  • I will be the criminal defense attorney reviewing and overseeing your case and I will be the criminal attorney standing next to you in District Court.  Unlike so many other Rhode Island criminal defense firms, I do NOT send associates to do my job.  I am in criminal court every day of the week, and I strongly believe each expungement client deserves this personal service.
  • I copy every marijuana client on every single document coming into the law office, or leaving the office, regarding their charges.  I think it is critical for every client to be well-informed and fully engaged in the process.  Defending your marijuana possession charge is truly a team effort.
  • All calls and emails will be returned by me, not an associate, within a few hours of receiving the email or call.  
  • I provide a free and comprehensive initial consultation in all new criminal cases.
  • I am available 24/7/365
phone Request your free case evaluation today! (401)861-1155

Complete the Form Below For Immediate Assistance

    • Preeminent Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorney S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.
    • 25yrs Experienced RI DUI Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.
    • BBB
    • DUI Lawyer Reviews S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.
    • Distinguished DUI lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.
    • Avvo Top DUI Attorney S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.