S 2253/ H 7092, sponsored by Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. John Jay Edwards and signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee last June, replaces criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a $150 civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. If the offender is under the age of 18, his or her parents or legal guardians will be notified and he or she will be required to complete an alcohol and drug education course, as well as perform community service, in addition to the fine. Fifty percent of the fines collected by the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal will be directed toward drug education and treatment programs.
Rhode Island joins 13 other states around the country that have adopted marijuana "decriminalization" laws. Voters in two additional states, Washington and Colorado, have approved measures to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol for adults 21 and older. Decriminalization bills have been introduced in nine states this year. Additionally, bills to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol have been introduced in nine states.
Statement from Robert Capecchi, Deputy Director of State Policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied in support of S 2253/H 7092:
"We applaud the legislature and Gov. Chafee for answering Rhode Islanders' call for a more sensible marijuana policy. Nobody should be subject to life-altering criminal penalties simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.
"There is still work to be done and we are pleased to see there is growing support among legislators for more comprehensive marijuana policy reform. Until marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, sales will remain uncontrolled, and they will continue to prop up drug cartels instead of legitimate Rhode Island businesses. Repealing criminal penalties for marijuana possession slows the bleeding, but repealing marijuana prohibition will heal the wound."