Thousands of Citations Have Been Issued Since Rhode Island Decriminalized Marijuana Possession

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Among the state’s largest cities, Warwick and Pawtucket aggressively wrote marijuana citations, while Providence and Woonsocket police were more laissez faire. Warwick issued the most citations by far — 934 from 2013 to 2017 — while Providence averaged only 33 citations per year from 2014 to 2016.The full report can be found here. In 2015, for example, Warwick wrote 10 times as many citations as Providence. Tags: , In those six cities and towns, the study found that 39% of citations were issued to African Americans, which make up only 8% of the total population in Rhode Island.Article continues after adAdvertisementIn 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union released a study showing that African Americans were nearly three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in Rhode Island from 2001 to 2010, despite evidence that African Americans and whites consume marijuana at roughly the same rate.The URI report highlights significant differences in enforcement among various cities and towns in Rhode Island.

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI — A new report compiled by Peter Phipps, a professor of journalism at the University of Rhode Island, and students in his Media and Law course found that Rhode Island police officers continue to devote resources to enforcing laws against marijuana even after possession of small amounts was decriminalized in 2013.

According to the study, which analyzed data provided by police departments representing about 85% of the state’s population, officers issued approximately 5,000 citations for marijuana possession from April 2013 through 2017.

Each marijuana citation carries a minimum fine of $150.

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“Before this survey by journalism students at URI, no one knew how police in Rhode Island were enforcing the 2013 marijuana possession law,” said Phipps. “The class found stark differences from community to community. Among the state’s largest cities, Warwick and Pawtucket aggressively wrote...

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