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Marijuana Decriminalization Considered in R.I.

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A state Senate leader and the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) are pressing state lawmakers to decriminalize marijuana possession in Rhode Island, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 3.

Sen. Josh Miller, a local restaurant owner, heads a special legislative commission that is studying issues around marijuana prohibition and has held hearings on drug-policy reform, including decriminalization of small amounts of the drug. Miller said that Massachusetts’ recent move to decriminalize marijuana, along with the argument that the policy shift would save the state money, have helped propel the debate.

Miller’s panel recently took testimony from Jack Cole, a former narcotics officer who heads LEAP. Miller and Cole said that the key to their success could lie in convincing law-and-order politicians that pursuing marijuana offenders keeps police from preventing more serious crimes.

The Rhode Island District Attorney’s office has told Miller’s panel that decriminalization would not save the state any money and could take leverage away from police and prosecutors in pursuit of higher-level offenders.

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