Marijuana decriminalization takes effect today in Rhode Island, up to an ounce now civil penalty


William Breathes.
A greener Rhode Island.

Congrats, Rhode Island residents over 18! Walking around with an ounce or less in your pocket will no longer be a criminal offense in your state starting today. Instead, possession of 28 grams or less is a civil violation (like a traffic ticket) that will get you a $150 fine.
No, this is not an April Fools joke.

According to the bill, S 2253, which amended current state controlled substance laws, police will also take your marijuana from you. Bummer. But it’s better than a night in the clink. The law applies to first offenses as well as any subsequent offenses so long as they are under an ounce and don’t fall within 18 months of each other – that’ll land you a misdemeanor charge according to Reuters.
Though the bill does decriminalize small amounts, police can still arrest you if you don’t have an ID on you or if you give a fake name. And if you happen to get popped, be sure to pay your fines on time, though. After a month, they go up to $300. Don’t pay that within three months, and it jumps to $600. That’s a lot to pay for an ounce of lost herb. Fines collected will go towards county-based youth drug awareness and drug treatment programs.
Minors under 18 would also be fined $150, give up their pot and not face jail time so long as they complete state-approved drug awareness programs and community service. Failure to do the program or the service hours raises the fine to $300, but it remains a civil offense.
Rhode Island is one of nine states to consider decriminalization bills this year. Rhode Island also allows for medical marijuana, with 5,048 patients in the program.