Law reclassifies certain felony drug charges as misdemeanors in RI

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee held a ceremonial signing Tuesday for legislation that downgrades the severity of certain drug possession charges in Rhode Island.

The new law, which has been in effect since mid-July, reclassifies simple possession of 10 grams or less of certain controlled substances as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Advocates say the measure makes it easier for people battling addiction to get help, rather than force them deep into the criminal justice system.

The signing was held at the home of Project Weber/RENEW, a nonprofit dedicated to harm reduction and recovery.

“I believe in a good, fair criminal justice system but the law itself is not always fair,” McKee said. “This legislation helps to change that by breaking the cycle of people who are suffering from addiction.”

Currently, it is difficult for people with felonies on their record to find work or a place to live, according to advocates, so the law aims to help people get back on track.

Supporters also cited success with de-felonizing drugs in states like California and Utah.

The bill sponsors included Sen. Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey of Warwick and Providence District 10 Rep. Scott Slater.

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