Peter Griffin could be getting high without fear of jail time. Rhode Island lawmakers are currently debating a measure that would decriminalize possession of marijuana. Representative John G. Edwards (D) has once again entered a bill, H5031, that would reduce the penalty for possession from a misdemeanor with jail time to a civil infraction much akin to a traffic ticket.

Edwards says about the measure; “My intent with this legislation remains the same: to provide some relief to the taxpayers of our state,” said Edwards. “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.”

Under the new law (if passed) possession of up to one ounce of marijuana would be punishable by a $150 dollar fine. From the Press Release.

If his decriminalization bill becomes law, Representative Edwards said the state would save between $1 million and $4 million in court costs and law enforcement and ACI expenses.

The average cost to house a prisoner at the ACI is $44,000 per year.

Representative 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.

Seems like Mr. Edwards actually has a grasp on the actual cost of the drug war. Not just the fiscal cost, but the ruined lives that come with a drug charge. What the feds don’t want to admit is that a drug conviction does ever so much more to a person than just incarcerating them. A college student might lose their funding. A otherwise law abiding citizen might lose their job for getting arrested. A myriad of possibilities. It’s nice to see that some legislators aren’t total sell outs and actually look at the facts to set public policy.

-Legalize It!-