Rhode Island: Lawmakers Moving Forward With Marijuana Decriminalization Measures

On Tuesday, separate legislative committees in the Rhode Island House and Senate approved measures to significantly reduce the state’s criminal marijuana possession penalties.

House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 2253, amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can read NORML’s testimony in favor of the measures here.

According to a recent statewide poll, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents are in favor of decriminalization. In recent years, neighboring Connecticut (in 2011) and Massachusetts (in 2009, via a voter-approved initiative) have enacted similar decriminalization laws.

Rhode Island lawmakers have a long history of supporting medical marijuana law reform legislation. However, yesterday’s vote marks one of the first times in recent memory that lawmakers have taken action to amend the state’s marijuana penalties for non-patients.

The decriminalization measures now await floor votes in their respective chambers. These votes could come as early as this week. Therefore, if you reside in the Ocean State, it is vital that your elected officials hear from you. You can contact your state elected officials directly via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

Similar decriminalization legislation is also pending in New Jersey, where the full Assembly is expected to vote on the measure imminently. Further information on this effort is available here.

Presently, in eight states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon — the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by an adult is defined under the law as a civil, non-criminal offense.

Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska law imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.

In all other states, marijuana possession for personal use remains a criminal offense — punishable by an arrest, potential incarceration, and a criminal record.

17 thoughts

  1. I was so happy to see the lesser sentence, but I cannot wait for the day it is fully legal

  2. That’s great, it reduces the burden on the busted but as long as the police are promoted by a conviction quota, then arrests will continue.

  3. Damn nice job rhode island. Washington really has to catch up and pass i502 this november.

  4. It’s about time, but as long as the DEA dumps our money of state and local police departments, they’ll continue to follow their orders, kicking down doors and murdering citizens over this plant.

  5. In addition to simple decriminalization, the law needs to allow for a way for someone to legally get it. I saw a show where a big shot law officer was saying we don’t arrest people just for possession. He was being truthful! That’s because they always tack on lots of other charges to go along with the possession: paraphernalia, growing a plant or two (cultivation), purchase, maybe they had a gun somewhere in their home…

    Decriminalization is not enough! We need real protection against unfair and unjust laws!

    It is a very small step in the right direction at least…

  6. Yes, a positive step, but gosh, I agree with Tammy, why any punishment at all for having a little bit of a non-toxic plant?

  7. Good to hear more states are doing the right thing in decriminalizing possession of marijuana. I can only hope Washington and Arizona can join the list this year hopefully.

  8. I definitely agree with this, its natural, can help the economy, quit making a Damn fuss, its something we need.

  9. Now we got to get the old people, with old beliefs,who are running Pennsylvania to start changing the laws here.

  10. Well its a good step in the right direction. Anytime someone wont get locked up for pot is good in my book.

  11. The Geek say, he say, “Take all these marijuana addicts, along with their enabling politicians, by the scruff of the neck and the seat of their pants, and without any unnecessary delay, get them all before a criminal court judge”!

  12. “Oh how I wish that my state get off their old old asses and do something”

    The person from arkansas who posted this comment needs to find out about the medical marijuana initiative going on right now in this state. We have a july deadline to collect signatures so here’s your chance to DO SOMETHING!!!

  13. We need decrim measures in PA, MD, DE, NJ, VA, WV! It’s like the whole region is still considered unfriendly.

  14. OK folks its time to make a stand.

    The only thing that can get things done is money and votes. Most of us have voting rights, some have money. Email this message to your elected officials and stand firm. Also send to like minded friends and family:

    To the President, Members of the US Congress, State and local elected officials:

    Criminal marijuana prohibition is a failure. Over 20 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses since 1965 with over 800,000 arrests in 2010. The problem is getting worse – not because of the benign plant, but because of the obsolete laws. The time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.

    I can no longer vote for elected officials that support the the current laws. I have decided not to vote for any politician that does not publicly support the removal of all penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts.


    Voting Citizen
    & Member of the Movement

  15. I have a dream – its very simple. Our elected officials (federal,state and local) should be required to take drug tests like any American getting a new job or like other public employees such as firemen and police who are subject to periodic on going tests. Let them get a taste of prohibition and the police state. Things may change. DEMAND DRUG TESTING OF PUBLIC OFFICALS!!

    Just think of the jobs it will create.

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