As of Monday, April 1, it will no longer be a crime to carry small amounts of marijuana in Rhode Island. And like their counterparts in towns across the state, Warren police are ramping up for the change in law.
“We’re going to keep it very simple,” said Warren Police Lt. Roy Borges. “It’s basically going to be like a traffic ticket.”
Possession of small amounts of marijuana (less than an ounce) was decriminalized by voters in the November 2012 general election, but state officials chose to wait five months to enforce the new law. Since then, Lt. Borges said he and other officers have met with officials from the state Traffic Tribunal, the civil court that will hear cases of marijuana possession in the future, and made sure they understand policy. It works like this, Lt. Borges said:
People caught with less than an ounce of marijuana are subject to a citation and civil fine of $150. Possession of more than an ounce, however, is still considered a crime. Lt. Borges said officers have been briefed in the new law, and also told how to go about dealing with people who are found to have marijuana in their possession.
Especially in the case of people carrying what appears to be an ounce or more, “the officers have been told to treat every case as a criminal case up to the point that it’s determined that it’s not,” either by weighing the drug back at the station or otherwise determining that no crime has been committed.
Warren police charged 32 people with marijuana possession charges last year.