Possessing small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in Rhode Island in 2013. Regardless, law enforcement across the state continue to issue large numbers of citations. Professor Peter Phipps and students in his Media and Law course analyzed the amount of citations issued since decriminalization took place.
The study determined that there were 5,000 citations issued between 2013 and 2017, according to WPRI 12 News. Citations were issued in about 85-percent of the state’s police departments. Further analysis of the data shows that 39-percent of the citations issued were to African Americans. Men were cited more than women.
Phipps said, “Before this survey by journalism students at URI, no one knew police in Rohde Island were enforcing the 2013 marijuana possession law. The class found stark differences from community to community.”
Traffic stops were the majority of the sources of the citations.
Legalization supporters say that this information provides more evidence regarding why Rhode Island should legalize marijuana.
Matthew Schweich of MPP said, “Despite the fact that three out of five Rhode Islanders think it’s time to legalize and regulate marijuana, taxpayers are still contributing significant resources to enforce prohibition. It makes no sense to spend money on a policy that punishes people for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol.”