Rhode Island: General Assembly Overwhelmingly Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Measures

Providence, RI: By a vote of more than 2 to 1, members of the General Assembly on Tuesday approved legislation to significantly reduce 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.

Eight states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon — similarly define the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by adults 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 imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Speaking publicly about the issue on Wednesday, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an Independent, said that he is "inclined" to sign the measures into law, stating that he believes that decriminalization could reduce the state’s prosecutorial costs. If enacted, the legislation would take effect on April 1, 2013.

For more information, please visit NORML’s online ‘Take Action Center’ here: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=61434971.