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Rep. John Edwards Tries Again to Decriminalize Pot

Rep. John Edwards introduces a bill that would decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Saying it would save the state millions of dollars, Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) is trying again this year to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

The legislation (2011-H5031), which he first introduced last year, would call for civil fines of $150 per occurrence for those who possess small amounts of marijuana, according to a press release on the General Assembly Web site Tuesday.

Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana carries a criminal penalty of up to one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine.

“My intent with this legislation remains the same, to provide some relief to the taxpayers of our state,” Edwards said. “In these difficult times, we must look for ways to cut costs wherever we can. Rhode Islanders should not be footing the bill to keep people in jail due to simple possession charges. It’s a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.”

If his decriminalization bill becomes law, Edwards said, the state would save between $1 million and $4 million in court costs, law enforcement and Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) expenses.

The average cost to house a prisoner at the ACI is $44,000 per year, according to the release.

Rep. Edwards said that making the penalty a civil offense rather than a criminal offense will also spare people, especially young adults, from a having a criminal record that could potentially exclude them from certain types of employment in the future.

“A youthful indiscretion should not be something that ruins a person’s chance to become a teacher, fireman or even volunteer in a child’s classroom,” he said.

Edwards said he has received wide support this year, with 40 cosponsors – from both sides of the aisle – signing on to his legislation. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Edwards, a Tiverton resident, is the director of Caritas, a nonprofit organization that offers treatment for substance abusers and their families through residential and outpatient programs.

Robert Johnson March 04, 2011 at 03:31 AM
How many people actually serve time in the ACI for pot possession? Where is the line drawn for "youthful indiscretions"? 16, 18, 25 years old? There should be consequences no matter what your age. Aren't people ordered to pay court costs after a conviction of possession? Does that cover everything?
Dan March 15, 2011 at 09:00 PM
A) Marijuana does not need FDA approval B) The FDA is about as corrupt as it gets for " Drug Approval". If you haven't noticed the amount of "bad medicine" that has been allowed in the marketplace in the past 30 years I'd actually consider your argument. Do you know much good medicine doesn't get approved by the FDA because it actually has benefits. I am referring to medicines that "Cure" people and not "Treat" them. C) If your that worried about second hand smoke affecting other people, you need a new hobby - sorry for the ad homonym but I mean really. Any RESPONSIBLE adult using marijuana as a medicine will not smoke it near or in front of their child. Plain and Simple. D) Being from New England I'd figure you'd understand the Native's of our land say 200 years ago had daily use for Marijuana and Hemp. What study are you basing all of your facts on second hand smoke compared to marijuana smoke? Considering the majority of tobacco's contain many other harmful substances that marijuana doesn't see in its lifetime. You do know tobacco is so overly processed that the amount of additives in tobacco is something like 100+. Not to mention the amount of pesticide they spray the stuff with. Your statement saying you've never been a smoker has really said all that has needed to be said. You don't have a clue what your talking about.
Red Card March 16, 2011 at 05:54 PM
The most commonly used intoxicant in the world is alcohol. I say we ban that. Oh wait, we tried that and it led to mass chaos, illegal trafficking by cartels, and enormous costs to federal, state, and local governments to enforce that ban. Sound familiar? Then the country got smart, taxed and regulated the product, and made money off of it. I'm guessing everyone on this thread has taken a drink or two. Did you immediately run to a dealer for some angel dust and try to fly from your roof? I have smoked a little bit of cigaweed in my day, although it's been close to twenty years. The old adage is true: I've never seen a man come home from a bong party and beat up his wife and kids.
Joe Sousa. March 16, 2011 at 11:21 PM
There are a whole lot of retired cops who agree with this legislation . They've been to the state house to testify. It may pass this year.
East side March 17, 2011 at 02:07 AM
I find it strange that PHS is holding court on preceding drug use and next to this article is the guy in the industrial park selling Mary Jane. What is next his companies sponsorship for little league. Hey mom I'm playing for the roaches and the uniforms support the dump initiative as they are made of hemp. Totally recyclable mon.

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