Breaking: Rhode Island General Assembly Overwhelmingly Backs Marijuana Decriminalization Measures

By a vote of more than 2 to 1, members of the Rhode Island General Assembly today approved legislation to significantly reduce the state’s criminal marijuana possession penalties.

Members of the House and Senate passed twin bills, House Bill 7092 and Senate Bill 2253, which amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 years 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 these measures here.

House Bill 7092/Senate Bill 2253 now await concurrence votes, after which time they will be sent to Gov. Lincoln Chafee. [Update: In a radio interview this morning, Gov. Chafee stated that he is ‘inclined’ to sign the measures into law. Read the full summary of Chafee’s remarks here.] If you reside in Rhode Island, you can contact Gov. Chafee on behalf of these measures here.

According to a 2012 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 marijuana decriminalization laws.

Rhode Island lawmakers have previously approved legislation legalizing the possession and state-licensed distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

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.

41 thoughts

  1. Still have not received an answer to this.

    Does anyone know which State out of these 17 is the most liberal for Medical Marijuana? I don’t understand the difference between ‘Limited Legalization’, ‘Legalization’ and ‘Decrmininalized’ Thank you! ^_^

    [Paul Armentano responds: NORML provides a breakdown of state by state medical cannabis laws here:

  2. you can’t win a war on drugs… only a war on the people who use them.

    End the War on People.

  3. ? it ? I support the tree of life and it’s cancer cure amongst hundreds of other ailments. ? it I am here-by… exposing… the secret (only specific skilled individuals can catch this) to creating the domino effect we all need for this plant to be set free along with the minds of all humanity.

    We still need a DOX of the individuals behind these massacre departments of NIDA & FDA. Lets get ’em!! #PUFMM #OpCannabis

  4. We attempt to eradicate Cannabis in afghanistan, yet leave the opium…

    Our troops are dying to burn Cannabis in the fields over seas. This is insane. Someone help the human race!!

  5. There are drugs that are dangerous and need to be illegal Marijauna is absolutely not one of them!!! Free The Herb Heal The World!!!

  6. Oregons law for cultivating a single plant without a medical card is 20 years…not exactly decriminalized for small amounts in my opinion.

  7. Where is PA? PA lawmakers need to be held accountable when all the other states around us uphold decrim.

  8. NEW YORK brings forward a bill to decriminalize marijuana and Rhode Island jumps on board? I hope this is a domino effect about to happen. It appears that it may be just that indeed. Fingers crossed. 🙂

  9. It’s progress but still….there shouldn’t be any penalties for possession .
    Meanwhile out in, California this guy, Rex Bohn is not hiding how he makes his living from what growers use exclusively for the growing of Marijuna ( at least in, Northern California ). Read on :

    Bohn appears to sweep 1st District Humboldt

    Rex Bohn, a raw materials locator for FoxFarm Soil and Fertilizer Company, appeared to have swept the race for the 1st District Humboldt County supervisor seat Tuesday night, garnering 63.82 percent of the vote in preliminary results, with former Wiyot Tribe Chairwoman Cheryl Seidner following at 28.73 percent and retired teacher Annette De Modena coming in third at 7.08 percent.

  10. replay@vang

    Yup, watching the dominoes slowly fall recently, has put a huge boost of confidence in me vs prior when everything was at a stand still.

    This is moving much faster than I anticipated.

    How many more years anyone think for all 50 states to be fully legalized? 10-15 years maybe?

  11. Thank you! So does this mean California is the most liberal of these 17 States? Or is it Colorado for Medical Marijuana? I’m very curious. I lived in California all my life but I want to make sure!

  12. Can you feel the gravity shift as we reach the tipping point? Remember the Berlin wall and then the whole fall of communism? The whole pot prohibition thing could topple in similar dramatic fashion if just the one right thing happens….

  13. Where is Texas in this dealio. Texas wants the freedom too. I always prayed I would see this in my lifetime. Don’t hide it divide it!!!!!

  14. I think Alaska has the absolute best policy out of all the states. Less than 25 plants and I think anything under 4 oz in the home is protected under privacy rights. I think all states should strive for this model.

  15. Appalling statements from the deputy director of NORML. The civil penalty route is an outrage. we must end stigmatisation, opprobrium, surveillance and any form of punishment. This isn’t liberty, this is a mandate for increased intrusion into people’s private lives by giving the authorities a cheaper solution to maintain the oppressive subjugation of people’s needs and choices to preserve a monopoly in their form of dangerous drug dealing.

    [Editor’s note: OK liberty lover extraordinaire! Spit in the face of pragmatic reforms if you must and hold out for your Utopia at your own risk.

    ‘Decrim…an outrage!’

    C’mon, decriminalization bills passing are an “outrage”??

    Less outraged cannabis consumers facing the clear, but preferable Hobson’s Choice of paying a fine rather than be arrested for possessing cannabis overwhelmingly view the actions of NY and RI this week as decided progress in the long fought effort to end Cannabis Prohibition.

    Take the victories and build upon them rather than curse the actual and successful reform efforts of others doing the heavy lifting. If you think you can do better making cannabis consumers less subjugated, good luck and godspeed Liberty Lover Extraordinaire. Then you might just become the High Times Freedom Fighter of the Month and all would cheer ‘yeah!’]

  16. My body, My mind, My disability, My pains, OUR PLANT OUR medication, let us try and remember that no human being has the power or right to ban or make a plant illegal, for a start the plant will not listen, so the war on cannabis is really a war on us, being fined or punished any amount of money no matter how small the amount is NOT THE WAY to go, we are not criminals because we decide to consume a plant

  17. Well please accept this comment:

    I don’t see why its improper to demand equality of treatment under law as a basic premise of proper administrative policy and the sensible policy of leaving peaceful people alone because of some drug preference.

    What you have done as a campaign stance runs counter to normalisation of people making peaceful drug choices and supports discrimination against cannabis users vis a vis alcohol and tobacco users.
    Civil penalties transfer subjugation and enforce compliance of peaceful cannabis users into an formally oppressive control system that will be enforced more widely and cheaply with criminal sanction for disobedience and non compliance with fines, treatment orders and various sinister interventions into private lives for no good reason.

  18. One of my concerns is the entire drug testing scheme. The only thing those urine & hair tests pick up is THC. Not pleased with the fact that good people can either be denied a job, or get fired for their job because they light up a joint once in a while on the weekends.

    Let’s hope that they’ll eliminate M.J. from drug tests.

    Now I fully support a Saliva test if an employee looks as though they’re coming into work stoned (I’m talking about any job that requires operating heavy machinery, or anything in the blue & white collar industry).

    But other than that let’s stop ruining individuals lives over puffing a joint (off work hours).

  19. Finally we are making headway. In Michigan we have a heartless Republican Governor so I doubt we will have any movement anytime soon. I will however be moving to Oregon in the next few years and hopefully be able to enjoy MJ as it was intended to be. ; ) .

  20. That’s awesome! Hopefully Georgia will decriminalize soon, we have a ugly racist past here and throwing thousands of decent non-violent black people into cages for using a harmless plant isn’t helping racial relations here one bit.

  21. A 150 dollar fine and they confiscate your herb. So we pay 300 bucks or more and then pay the police to take off our hands. Man this government has there shit together….wtf

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