A growing number of state legislatures are debating marijuana policy, according to the Associated Press. The discussions are being fueled by an increasingly open-minded public, as well as an enthusiastic base of voters who support legalization.
Lawmakers in states including Rhode Island and Colorado are discussing medical marijuana programs, dispensaries, decriminalization and legalization. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia authorize medical marijuana. Fourteen states have rolled back criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Rhode Island is likely to become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana possession, according to the article. The General Assembly passed legislation last week that would eliminate large fines or jail time for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana. Adults caught with small amounts of marijuana would face a $150 civil fine, and the incident would not appear on a person’s criminal record. Minors caught with marijuana would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service. The state’s governor has indicated he is likely to sign the legislation.
Washington state and Colorado will vote on legalizing marijuana this fall. Earlier this month, Connecticut’s governor signed into law a bill allowing medical marijuana. Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked the state legislature to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view.
A Gallup poll conducted last fall found half of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, up from 46 percent the previous year.