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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.

Joe Sousa. January 18, 2011 at 11:52 PM
This legislation will save Cities and Towns money both in police over time and the town's legal budget . The state of Mass. has passed similar legislation and achieved these results. It takes forward thinking to advance an idea that is behind it's time. Best of luck
South Shore Parents January 19, 2011 at 11:44 PM
Whether or not it this legislation is going to save cities and town money is questionable. How many people that are actually serving time at the ACI for "possession of marijuana" is the the issue, and I don't see those numbers being that high if there is any at all. Massachusetts has this law, but I don't belive it is effective, because they have no enforcement in place for those who do not pay the fine. Fine in R.I. $200, plus court costs. Fine in Mass $150 with no enforcement/consequences for those that don't pay, take your pick.
Nancy Crawford January 20, 2011 at 01:56 AM
I find it ironic our society becomes apoplectic over second hand smoke but at the same time is attempting to make marijuana use more acceptable by reducing penalties and legalizing medical marijuana which for the most part is a joke. If it has medical benefits, it should beapproved by the FDA, prescribed by doctors and available at pharmacies via prescription. I believe most serious drug users begin with marijuana and second hand marijuana smoke has to be at least as dangerous to children as second hand cigarette smoke. It seems totally illogical to work toward legalization of another harmful substance when we're trying to eliminate cigarette smoking. As an aside, I am not nor ever have been a smoker.
Joe Sousa. January 20, 2011 at 02:18 AM
South Shore Parents, Every arrest cost the Towns numerous hours in over time and legal fees. Once the arrest is made the suspect is processed. A report has to be written. We have to keep the accused in jail till bail is set. The officer has to appear in court and testify. We hire a prosecutor who prepares the case and presents it in court. All of these costs are a burden on the towns budget. There are times when you just have to say enough is enough.
South Shore Parents January 20, 2011 at 01:49 PM
There are very few if any at all, Marijuana arrest that go to trial. Take a ride to District Court and see the results. It is a fact Marijuana use leads to the use of other serious drugs, it's quality of life and we have become more tollerant of drug use and crime. I say we remain tough on drugs & make Marijauan arrests more expensive to those who choose to use it and get arrested. The facts are the facts I don't feel that this is going to reduce my taxes one bit!!
Al Carvine March 04, 2011 at 02:41 AM
Look at the picture of John Edwards attached to this article. I think he be happy, mon! Right on, John! With the populous all stoned out, you can do whatever you want, mon!
stoney larue March 04, 2011 at 02:49 AM
Nice comments Dan I mean Al Carvine. God forbid someone smile in a photo.
Jim L March 04, 2011 at 03:18 AM
but you have to give these to real folks, not clowns looking for votes n money
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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