The Senate voted Tuesday 28 to 7 to approve Rep. John Edwards’ marijuana decriminalization bill and the legislation will now move to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s office for consideration.
The legislation eliminates the criminal charge for carrying one ounce or less of marijuana and instead would impose a civil penalty of a $150 fine, plus forfeiture of the drug.
A third offense within 18 months of the previous offense would be treated as a misdemeanor.
Under the provisions of the bill offenders who are minors would also have to complete an approved drug awareness program and community service.
Previously, possession of even very small amounts of marijuana would be considered a misdemeanor under state law and was punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500.
With the governor’s signature, Rhode Island would become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana. The legislation would go into effect in April of 2013.