Town Enjoined from Using Zoning Laws to Circumvent RI Medical Marijuana Act
October 18, 2017
In April, the Smithfield (RI) Town Council passed an ordinance that amended the Town’s zoning laws by prohibiting licensed medical marijuana patients from possessing more than two mature marijuana plants and two marijuana seedlings at the patient’s primary residence. The new ordinance also created a licensing procedure for potential growers. At the meeting where the Town Council approved the ordinance, the Town’s Police Chief testified that two plants should be sufficient, and expressed fears that patients could sell the excess illegally or could be subject to potential robbery. By contrast, the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act (RIMMA) specifically permits for the cultivation of 12 mature plants, and specifies where medical marijuana can be grown.
Judge Richard Licht’s decision seemed particularly concerned that the Town offered no evidence to support its contention that two plants is sufficient for cardholders’ needs, despite the fact that the General Assembly found twelve plants to be the appropriate number of plants for an individual to grow. The decision also finds that the Town exceeded its zoning authority in enacting the ordinance, and that federal law does not preempt the RIMMA.