Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) signed SB 2253, which decriminalizes the the simple possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Last week the bill received its final vote in the state House of Representatives. This new law will make Rhode Island the 15th state to have decriminalized simple possession.
Previously, possession of a small amount of marijuana in the state was a criminal misdemeanor which could be punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $500. This new law will instead mean most possession violations for people over the age of 18 will result in merely a civil fine of $150 without jail time or a criminal record.
The is just the latest example of the growing success of marijuana reform across the country. Almost exactly a year ago Rhode Island’s neighbor Connecticut also decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, and so far this year initiatives to fully legalize marijuana have already qualified for the November ballot in both Colorado and Washington state.
One word of caution to people in Rhode Island, the new law technically doesn’t go into effect until April 1st, 2013.