PROVIDENCE — A bill to decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and substitute a civil penalty of $150 was introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives yesterday. H 7317, a bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by 35 House members and has been referred to the House Judiciary committee.

The Rhode Island State Senate is likely to introduce their version of the bill later this week. If the bill becomes law, Rhode Island would join their neighboring state to the north, Massachusetts, and become the 14th state to pass a law to decriminalize marijuana. In 2008, Massachusetts voters passed a similar decriminalization law with 65% of the vote.

"Rhode Island lawmakers should be applauded for their support of this bill that will save the state much needed money and resources by not arresting, prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating marijuana users,” said Karen O’Keefe, MPP director of state policies. “We look forward to the day when the citizens of this state no longer have to fear being handcuffed and thrown in jail for using a substance far safer than alcohol.”

The entire text of the bill can be read at: