Rhode Island Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

Author: David B. Weisenfeld

June 1, 2022

Rhode Island has become the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana use, with adults 21 and over now able to possess, use and grow marijuana. Gov. Dan McKee signed the law last week, which is effective immediately though retail sales will not begin until December.

The law makes clear that it does not prevent employers from refusing to hire, discharging or disciplining a person because of their violation of a workplace drug policy or for working under the influence of marijuana Employers also don't need to accommodate marijuana use in any other locations while an employee is performing work, including remote work.

However, a Rhode Island employer may not fire or take disciplinary action against an employee solely because of an employee's private, off-duty marijuana use outside of the workplace, unless:

  • Off-duty use is prohibited by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement;
  • The employer is a federal contractor or otherwise subject to federal regulations such that a failure to take action would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing benefit; or
  • The employee works in a job, occupation or profession that is hazardous, dangerous or essential to public welfare and safety.

In situations involving hazardous, dangerous or essential work (e.g., operating an aircraft, heavy machinery, emergency medical personnel), an employer may implement policies prohibiting the use of marijuana within the 24-hour period prior to a scheduled work shift or assignment.

Also under this law, any person with a prior civil violation, misdemeanor or felony conviction for a possession of marijuana offense that has been decriminalized will be entitled to have the civil violation or criminal conviction automatically expunged (removed from the public record). All eligible records must be expunged by July 1, 2024.

With this measure, five of the six New England states have legalized recreational marijuana use, including: