Frequently Asked Questions on Becoming a Caregiver

Please note that we are currently in the process of updating this site to incorporate recent changes to the law. Some of those changes take effect July 1, 2016. Others take effect January 1, 2017 and April 1, 2017.

By April 1, all plants being grown by patients and caregivers must have tags on them. They can be purchased from the Department of Business Regulation (DBR). For info on ordering and paying for tags, visit the DBR website:  http://www.dbr.state.ri.us/divisions/medicalmarijuana/index.php#medtags

How do I become a licensed MMj caregiver in Rhode Island?

The only way to become a caregiver is to be appointed by a patient. There are no independent caregivers.

Where do I find the caregiver application?

There is no caregiver application. Patients may appoint caregivers in their initial application to the MMj Program, their renewal forms, or  by requesting the appropriate form from the Health Department by calling 401.222.3752 or emailing at  mmp@health.ri.gov.  The Health Department will mail the form to the patient. 

If a patient does not yet have a MMj card, they can appoint a  caregiver in their application which can be downloaded from:  http://www.health.ri.gov/forms/registration/MedicalMarijuanaNewApplication.pdf 

What qualifies someone to be a caregiver?

A: The law requires that a caregiver be at least 21 years old, submit to a National Criminal Records Check, and not have any of the following criminal convictions:     pertaining to a conviction for any felony offense under chapter 28 of title 21 (“Rhode Island Controlled Substances Act”), murder, manslaughter, rape, first-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, first-degree child molestation, second-degree child molestation, kidnapping, first-degree arson, second-degree arson, mayhem, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault or battery involving grave bodily injury, and/or assault with intent to commit any offense punishable as a felony or a similar offense from any other jurisdiction. 

“Conviction” means, in addition to judgments of conviction entered by a court subsequent to a finding of guilty or a plea of guilty, those instances where the defendant has entered a plea of nolo contendere and has received a sentence of probation and those instances where a defendant has entered into a deferred sentence agreement with the attorney general.

Exception for immediate family  If disqualifying information has been found, the department may use its discretion to issue a primary caregiver registry identification card if the applicant’s connected patient is an immediate family member and the card is restricted to that patient only.

How do I get the National Records Background Check?

The National Criminal Records Check (NCRC) costs 35 dollars and is valid for two years. We suggest getting it at the Attorney General’s office,150 South Main Street, Providence, RI . Phone: (401) 274-4400. 8:30 -4pm. They are open til 4:30 but stop doing fingerprints at 4pm. Checks and money order only. Bring the correct form with you. It is the last page of the new patient application. You can download and print it: http://www.health.ri.gov/forms/registration/MedicalMarijuanaNewApplication.pdf

Keep the proof that you completed he NCRC and give a copy to your patient to send in with their application to show the Health Department that you completed it. Also, if you register another patient, you will not have to resubmit to the NCRC for another two years. Give the patient a copy of your proof so they can mail it to the Health Department.

Are there other considerations in deciding whether to become a caregiver?

Yes. If you are planning to grow medical marijuana for a patient, be realistic. Do you have the right space? It is critical that you be able to grow in a space that is safe and secure. You MUST evaluate whether your space will be able to handle the substantial electrical burden. Consult an electrician to see if your current wiring can handle it. Grow shops and RIPAC can help you find an electrician who is friendly to the program who will protect your confidentiality. DO NOT TAKE A RISK when it comes to electricity. You could endanger yourself, your family, your neighbors and the Medical Marijuana Program if your garden is responsible for a fire.

You must also ensure that you have proper security. All legal growing must be indoors. Is your space secure? Will you be able to grow in a way that no one will know you are growing? If the answer is “no”, then you shouldn’t grow. If others can see or smell your plants, then you are at risk of being robbed. Others may assume that you are a drug dealer with a lot of cash and target you for a break-in. Again, you could endanger yourself, your family, neighbors and the Program.

Is your grow space appropriate? If you have children, especially teenagers, consider the impact on them. Will they be able to be discreet? In some families, there is no problem but you are the one that has to assess your own situation – no two situations are the same. Also, consider your neighbors. If you are in an apartment, it is crucial to control any odor coming from the garden. The Attorney General’s office tells us that almost 90% of the calls and complaints they receive about the Medical Marijuana Program come from concerned neighbors who are worried that drug dealers have moved into the neighborhood. Conflicts can arise because neighbors do not want to live in a building that smells like marijuana and there may be multiple calls to the police. Please keep in mind, that as a license holder, you are representing the Medical Marijuana Program.

Prospective caregivers need to be realistic as to whether or not they can meet the needs of a patient. A caregiver who grows medicine for a patient is taking on a very serious responsibility. It is time consuming, costly, and requires a great deal of commitment and patience. Anyone thinking about becoming a caregiver should attend a RIPAC  Monday night Bell Street meeting where the responsibilities of being a caregiver are discussed. Please see our calendar for info about the Monday meetings:  http://ripatients.org/Calendar.html

A caregiver must be reliable, trustworthy and either knowledgeable about the cannabis plant or be willing to learn.  Patients should choose someone they know and trust to be their caregiver(s). If you do not know anyone, you may find an appropriate caregiver through the RIPAC Caregiver Registry. The Registry consists of caregivers who have agreed to abide by the RIPAC Caregiver Code of Ethics and never charge a patient more than 200 dollars per ounce of dried usable cannabis. Charges for edibles, tinctures, etc must be commensurate with that price. Most have patient references and we will coach you on how to interview a caregiver. Choosing a caregiver should be done with care.  Not every caregiver is right foe every patient and vice versa.


Will I be able to make some money if I become a caregiver?

A: No. The law protects caregivers who are reimbursed by their patients for the costs associated with growing. As of January 1, 2017, caregivers will not longer be able to sell excess medicine to the compassion centers.

Will I be able to provide Medical Marijuana to any licensed patients or just the ones that I am registered for?

You can be reimbursed for your costs by the patients that have registered you as their caregiver through the Health Dept. You can be registered for up to five patients. The law allows you to GIVE (with no strings attached) to any patient or caregiver who is licensed as long as they do not go over their limit. If you ask for a “donation”, a favor, a service, etc, in exchange for MMj, then it is a sale, not a gift and that is illegal.

Is there an application fee or other requirements for a registering as a caregiver?

Caregiver information is ALWAYS provided by the patient with their initial application, renewal or on the form that the patient requests from the Health Department.  There is a non-refundable Application Fee (Check or Money Order, Payable to RI General Treasurer) of one hundred ($100.00) OR twenty five ($25.00) if the caregiver is a disabled Veteran or recipient of Medicaid, Railroad Disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). Photocopy of Medicaid Card or other documentation that you are a recipient of Medicaid, SSI or SSDI. Proof must accompany the application to be eligible for the reduced fee.  The 25 dollar fee applies only if the caregiver is on SSI, SSDI, railroad disability, Medicaid, or is a disabled Veteran.  Please note that if you are on SSI or SSDI, then you need documentation from the Social Security administration that you are specifically receiving SSI or SSDI. It is not enough to have a statement that you are receiving income from the social security administration.   You need a statement that specifically states SSI or SSDI.


What should I expect after the paperwork has been submitted?

The Health Department will process the paperwork and then send you a letter letting you know that you have been accepted to the Program. The letter will instruct you as to the times to go to the Department and get your photo taken. Your license will be issued to you at that time.Caregivers receive a license for each patient they are registered for.

 Does RIPAC offer services or support for caregivers?

Yes. New and prospective patient and caregivers are invited to Monday night meetings at the Bell Street Chapel. Those meetings  cover the law and program rules for caregivers and many practical suggestions about avoiding pitfalls and problems. All other RIPAC meetings and grow classes are open to licensed caregivers when accompanied by their patients or upon prior approval. Please view calendar on this website for details or call RIPAC at 401.861.1601.

Can I GROW with another patient or caregiver?

Yes. But and patient or caregiver cardholder who grows with another cardholder is, as of September 1, 2014, considered a Co-op and special limits and requirements apply:

RESIDENTIAL CO-OPS . Two or more cardholders can grow in a residence but cannot have more that 24 mature plants, 12 seedlings, and 10 ounces of dried cannabis.  Only one co-op permitted in one building. So, if there is a building with many apartments, there could be only one co-op in entire building. Not clear how patients and caregivers would know whether there are other co-ops in the building.

Residential co-ops must register with state police and have an affidavit from an electrician stating that electrical is up to code and in compliance with zoning.  (An individual cardholder who is growing by themselves is not be required to register with state police or have an affidavit from electrician).

NON RESIDENTIAL “CO-OP” 

Two or more cardholders can grow together in non-residential setting but cannot possess more than 48 mature plants, 24 seedlings, and 10 ounces.  Only one co-op per building. Must be inspected by local city or town building department to ensure compliance with building and zoning codes. Must also be inspected by fire department.

Non residential “co-ops”  have to register with state police.  Individual cardholder growing alone does not have to register with state police or be inspected.

Other requirements for “co-ops”:

  • Cardholders can have co-op in one location only.
  • Cultivation cannot be visible from street or public areas.
  •  A written acknowledgement of the limitations of the right to use and possess marijuana for medical purposes in Rhode Island that is signed by each cardholder and is displayed prominently in the premises cooperative cultivation.
  • Violation of above requirements will result in revocation of MMj card.

AS OF JANUARY  1, 2017, ALL CO-OPS MUST PAY AN ANNUAL FEE AND APPLY TO THE DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS REGULATION (DBR) FOR A LICENSE.  CO-OPS ARE NOW SUBJECT TO DBR REGULATION. DBR regulations determine the amount of the fee and licensure requirements.

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