Rhode Island Bill to Criminalize Group Marijuana Use Being Rewritten, Sponsor Says

A controversial bill that sought to criminalize marijuana use in groups of three or more people in Rhode Island is being rewritten, according to the sponsor of the legislation. The proposed bill had drawn criticism from advocates of marijuana legalization who argued that it would disproportionately impact communities of color and violate individual civil liberties.

The sponsor of the original bill, State Senator Walter S. Felag Jr, confirmed that the proposed legislation is being rewritten and that he is working with colleagues in the General Assembly to find a more balanced approach. Lombardo stated that he intends to revise the bill in a way that would address concerns about social consumption of marijuana while also protecting individual rights.

The original version of the bill proposed to impose a fine of $150 on individuals who were caught smoking marijuana in groups of three or more people in public spaces, such as parks or beaches. The bill also proposed a penalty of up to 30 days in jail for those who violated the law multiple times.

Advocates of marijuana legalization criticized the bill, arguing that it would disproportionately affect communities of color, who are more likely to be targeted by law enforcement for drug-related offenses. They also raised concerns about the potential for civil liberties violations, arguing that the bill would give law enforcement too much discretion to target individuals who were simply gathered in groups.

The proposed legislation also drew criticism from some lawmakers who argued that it would be difficult to enforce and that it could lead to conflicts between law enforcement and residents.

Despite the controversy, some supporters of the original bill argued that it was necessary to address the issue of public consumption of marijuana, which is currently illegal in Rhode Island. They cited concerns about the impact of secondhand smoke on non-smokers, particularly children and vulnerable populations.

It remains to be seen what changes will be made to the proposed legislation and whether it will be reintroduced in the General Assembly. The debate over the bill highlights the ongoing tensions between advocates of marijuana legalization and those who argue for stricter drug laws, as well as the challenges of finding a balanced approach to regulating marijuana use in public spaces.

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