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Could Rhode Island decriminalize drug possession?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2024 | Drug Crimes

Rhode Island has been at the forefront of progressive drug policy in recent years. In 2021, state officials took a significant step by reclassifying the possession of small amounts of drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, as misdemeanors. This move was widely supported by key figures, including the governor and attorney general, who expressed a shift in focus towards treatment rather than prosecution for those struggling with addiction.

The push for decriminalization

The conversation has now progressed to consider a step beyond reclassification to decriminalization. State Representative Jose F. Batista of Providence is advocating for Rhode Island to follow in the footsteps of Oregon by decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of hard drugs. Under Batista’s proposed bill, possession would be treated as a civil violation, which carries fines but no possibility of jail time. The fines would start at $100 and potentially increase to $300 for repeat offenses. Moreover, habitual offenders would be required to undergo drug counseling and perform community service.

Batista draws a clear distinction between those who distribute drugs and individuals who possess drugs due to personal use and addiction. His bill aims to promote a societal shift towards prioritizing treatment and rehabilitation over punishment.

Current status of the bill

As of March, the bill has not advanced past committee in the General Assembly. It remains to be seen what will happen with Batista’s proposal, which has several co-sponsors. Unless any changes are made, individuals in Rhode Island facing drug possession charges are still subject to the current legal consequences and will benefit from seeking legal advice to address their situation.

Seeking legal support

As long as drug possession is still a crime, it’s important for individuals facing drug-related charges to stay informed and seek professional legal counsel to handle their cases effectively and with a clear understanding of the potential outcomes.