New bill would reclassify drug possession from felony to misdemeanor

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha is pushing to change the state’s drug possession laws to help those struggling with drug addiction.

Neronha said he will soon be proposing a new bill that would reclassify simple drug possession under 1 ounce from a felony to a misdemeanor.

He hopes this plan would help those struggling with drug addiction to receive treatment, rather than incarcerating them for dealing with their addiction.

“I believe that this legislation is fair and I believe that it is just,” Neronha said. “Those who simply possess drugs, who are addicted and cannot escape at least not yet, the cycle of addiction, those people are different and should be treated as such under the law.”

Neronha’s proposal would also lower prison time for simple drug possession, making it a one-year maximum instead of a three-year maximum.

At an event on Monday, Neronha outlined the bill alongside the bill’s sponsor, State Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffery, and other public health officials.

“People who use drugs are better off in the community where their condition can be treated, their health needs met and their future choices in employment and housing, for instance, not limited,” Dr. Traci Green, a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University said.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he was hesitant at first to support the bill, but he now believes this will have a positive impact on those working to recover from addiction.

“We are not decriminalizing the possession of a controlled substance, we are making it easier for a recovery,” Pare said.

If the legislation is approved, Rhode Island will join at least 20 other states with similar statutes.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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