Rhode Island General Assembly overwhelmingly decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana

Earlier this evening, June 5, 2012, the Rhode Island General Assembly overwhelming approved twin bills that would – for most offenses – remove the threat of jail time for the simple possession of marijuana. The companion bills – S2253/H7092 – would replace the current criminal charge for simple possession – up to a year in jail and/or up to a $500 fine – with a $150 civil offense. Individuals under the age of 18 would be subject to the same civil violation and would also be required to attend a drug education course as well as perform community service. A third marijuana possession offense within 18 months could result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. The twin bills must now each get a vote in the other legislative chamber. Then, they will go to Gov. Lincoln Chafee to sign into law, veto, or allow to become law without his signature.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimated that this proposal could save the state of Rhode Island up to $11 million dollars annually. In addition, allowing law enforcement to issue a simple citation as opposed to making an arrest for marijuana possession will free up law enforcement time to prevent, investigate, and solve crimes of violence and against property. Finally, by ending the draconian practice of criminalizing simple possession, many Ocean Staters will be spared from being labeled criminals for non-violent behavior – a label that carries a host of terrible collateral consequences.

While today’s votes are indeed great news, MPP and our allies’ work is not done. Chafee has stated that he’ll review the bill once it hits his desk. If you live in Rhode Island, please let Gov. Chafee know about the many benefits that enactment of this legislation can confer upon his state and the people who reside in it. Fourteen states have already removed the threat of jail time for the simple possession of marijuana and there have been no deleterious consequences: the sky’s still blue, the water still wet, and the use rates just as varied in those states that have decriminalized marijuana possession compared to those that have not. Meanwhile, the states have saved hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of adults have been spared a humiliating arrest for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.

3 thoughts on “Rhode Island General Assembly overwhelmingly decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana”

  1. Way to Go RI! We still have a long fight ahead of us. We might decriminalize Cannabis, but will most jobs still require a drug test to see if your using it and why, because it’s a schedule 1 substance? That should be changed if we are going to decriminalize, no? Or , at least add Ciggarettes to that schedule 1 list.
    The sooner we regulate and tax Cannabis, the sooner the state will recieve tax money from profits AND, don’t forget all the jobs it will create, from farmers to distribution. Just have to ask everyone to do the right thing, and don’t ride around in your car like a moron under the influence and ruin all this work because you thought you were cool. Once decriminalized, go to work, come home, and relax and enjoy the rest of your day they way you want to. Many people today get looked down at because we break the law by using it. I just want to stop paying Joe Shmoe down the road if I can be contributing to our bankrupt state. And if taxation and regulation brings money back to RI, then many people have the right to say, ‘ I told you so’.

  2. wiat..whats going on? are people in govt finaly opening their eyes? first ny gov cuomo asks for and end to the “stop and frisk” law which in ny, turns simple posession {a violation/ $100fine} in to a misdemeanor by asking the person being searched to “empty his pockets” when the person shows the cop a bag of marijuana ,he is charged with having marijuana “open to public view” and is arrested. this is a sick law that tricks people into commiting a crime! RI andNY are both moving in the right directions! an open door to marijuana discussion is a good open door! REMEMBER FOLKS…ITS JUST A PLANT! GOD MADE. its perfect the way it is. it dosent need to be alterd by man to get the desired effects, like many many drugs are! poppies can be made into opium which gets made into morphine which get turned into HEROIN yet every summer you can see poppies growing in your neighbors yard garden or local nurserys all legal?!?!?! hell doc perscribed meds kill more people in a week than cannabis has in recorded history?!?!! marinol a synthsized form of THC is schedule 3 while ALL NATURAL PLANT cannabis is god made thc and its schedule 1..?!?! wtf, its been long enough that we listend to these storys,tales,lies and exagerations of a SAFE PLANT..its damn time we change it..not in 17 states…but alll of um!!!!

  3. WAY TO GO! ONE STEP CLOSER TO JUSTICE!! its about time that people are starting to make a change. Marijuana is harmless,helpful,and natural. Conservatives can’t stand the thought of legalizing marijuana, yet they are all extremely religious. Well uh, if you are religious and beleive in God and the bible, then why would you want to ban A PLANT THAT GOD HIMSELF PUT ON THIS EARTH, he wouldn’t put this amazing plant on this Earth for no reason. So saying you are a christian and you are against marijuana, well then you are being a hypocrite. So you conservative assholes can keep drinking your hard liquor, keep smoking your ciggarettes, when you have a failing liver,and cancer, marijuana users around the world will be happy and healthy.

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