House, Senate Pass Marijuana Decriminalization Bills

The bills will now be passed to the opposing chamber for a vote. If enacted, Rhode Island would become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana.


The following is from a State House press release. 

The full Senate and House approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) to for carrying one ounce or less of marijuana.

Instead, the new law, if approved, would impose a civil penalty of a $150 fine, plus forfeiture of the drug. A third offense within 18 months of the previous offense would be treated as a misdemeanor.

The legislation passed the House in a 50 to 24 vote and passed the Senate in a 28 to 6 vote. Each bill must now travel across the rotunda to pass the opposite chamber in order to become law.

Under the provisions of the Senate and House bills (2012-S 2253Aaa2012-H 7092Aaa), offenders who are minors would also have to complete an approved drug awareness program and community service. The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal would have jurisdiction over these cases.

Currently, possession of even very small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor under state law and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500.

This legislation could save the state millions of dollars each year, clean the judicial dockets for more serious issues and take away the criminal stigma from an otherwise youthful indiscretion, Rep. Edwards said.

“I introduced this bill for three reasons,” Edwards said. “Firstly, I don’t think people should have a charge on their record that stays there forever because of a bad decision made during their teen years. Secondly, the state is going to save a little money from this because we won’t be incarcerating as many people.

"But most importantly, I think this is the right thing to do. Fourteen other states have done this, and Rhode Island and Vermont are the only exceptions in New England right now. This legislation brings equity to the state of Rhode Island." 

Senator Miller said the Special Senate Commission to Study the Prohibition of Marijuana hearings that took place in 2010 really made a difference in how some of his colleagues and members of the public viewed the prospect of marijuana decriminalization.

“I think the commission lured out some of the real benefits that can come from this legislation,” said Senator Miller, who served as chairman of the commission. “Not only will it have economic benefits tied to law enforcement, judiciary and incarceration costs, but it will be especially beneficial for young people. During the commission hearings, it was clear that education and treatment was the favored way of dealing with minors’ use of pot.

"No one wants to see opportunities in higher education closed off to someone because of criminal charges related to marijuana.”

The senator also pointed out that teens who can afford a good defense in court tend to fare better than those who can’t.

If enacted, Rhode Island would become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana.

In 2008, Massachusetts voters carried passage of a similar law with 65 percent of the vote. Connecticut’s legislature established a decriminalization law last year.

The Rhode Island legislation would go into effect on April 1, 2013.

Co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill include Senators Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist. 5,Providence), Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6,Providence) and Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket).

Reps. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville), Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) and Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) co-sponsored the House bill.

malcom lagauche June 06, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Congratulations to the state officials of Rhode Island for using common sense. It's time that Reefer Madness mentality and laws be put to rest.
Joe Sousa. June 06, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Still no relief from unfunded mandates.
Ralph Doliber June 07, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Gotta love the predictable 'OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH the CHILDREN will start doing HEROIN!! ' -type B.S. from opponents.. LIQUOR stores and Pubs/Bars on every CORNER. Drunk Driving arrests abound along with PLENTY of LIQUOR-fueled domestic violence and various acts of LIQUOR-fueled MAYHEM. That's for starters. WHAT, no 'OHHHHHHHHHHHH the CHILDREN are going to be DRUNKS!!' No, 'OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH LIQUOR is TOXIC (poison) to the human body!!' ? Compared to LEGAL LIQUOR, Cannabis is FAR less harmful to the body and in general. Buncha Hypocritical Dopes. I love how all the, ahem, "news" articles regarding the matter report that Cannabis possession in RI is a misdemeanor charge blah blah blah..but NONE told how only the SECOND such charge results in a FELONY charge! NONE..
Ralph Doliber June 07, 2012 at 04:53 AM
yup, read the article "Tiverton Woman Allegedly Threatens Son With 'Multiple Knives'" She was drinking LEGAL LIQUOR! Perfect example
malcom lagauche June 07, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Alcohol is far more dangerous than weed. No one has ever died from overdosing on marijuana and it doesn't cause people to be violent or affect others adversely as alcohol does daily in every town and city of the US. Alcholol is legal and you rarely see propaganda to discuss the negative aspects. If someone from another planet watched US television, he/she/it would think alcohol is a magic elixer. If someone is about to discuss a big business deal, he has a drink to assure he will be okay. If a guy is nervous about a date with someone, he takes a drink to calm his nerves. The anti-marijuana propaganda is misplaced. I don't advocate banning alchohol. I do support reailistic drug education, not the crap we've had shoved down our throats.


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