Today, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) signed legislation (PDF) into law that will reform how Rhode Island penalizes the simple possession of up to an ounce of marijuana (PDF). Currently, simple possession can be penalized with a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $200-$500 criminal fine. Under the provisions of the new law – which will take effect on April 1, 2013 – most violations of possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be penalized with a simple civil fine of $150!
Rhode Island is the 15th state to remove the threat of jail time for the simple possession of marijuana. Other states are considering enacting similar laws or improving their existing ‘decriminalization’ laws. Where one stands on marijuana policy has become a deciding issue at the polls lately, and support for reform is winning out. Colorado and Washington will vote on measures to tax and regulate the marijuana market like alcohol come November. It’s becoming more and more clear that supporting sensible marijuana policy reform is mainstream politics.
While MPP is definitely pleased by the progress made in Rhode Island, we are not finished with our work in the state. In addition to leading the lobbying effort to pass medical marijuana, compassion centers, compassion center amendments, and the decriminalization law, MPP is spearheading an effort to tax and regulate marijuana distribution in Rhode Island in a manner similar to alcohol. We have wonderful bill sponsors and support from the voters of the Ocean State (PDF), and we’re determined to end marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island and beyond!