A new state law decriminalizes the possession of marijuana in Rhode Island, but it does not go into effect until April 1, 2013.
On that date, the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana will be treated as a civil penalty, resulting in a $150 fine and forfeiture of the drug. If however, there is a third offense within 18 months of the previous offense, the charge is raised to a misdemeanor. Spelled out, the misdemeanor allows those convicted to be imprisoned for up to 30 days and fined $200 to $500.
Minors would also have to complete an approved drug awareness program of a minimum of four hours of instruction and at least 10 hours of community service. Half of the fines collected will be put toward education and treatment programs for young people. The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal will have jurisdiction.
The bill was sponsored in the RI House of Representatives by Rep. John Edwards, Dist. 70, Tiverton and in the RI Senate by Senator Joshua Miller, Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick. Senator Miller remarked that this law could become a national model for decriminalization as it factors in concerns of law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and the community.
Rhode Island is the 15th state to eliminate criminal charges for this offense.
Between now and next April Fool’s Day when the decriminalization goes into effect, possession is no joke; it is a misdemeanor.