Decriminalizing marijuana might save Rhode Island millions of dollars in prosecution and prison costs, or it could have the opposite effect and make a drug that is currently illegal much more readily available to anyone within the state's borders, including teenagers, a Senate panel was told this week, says the Providence Journal.
One advocate for decriminalization said the state could save upwards of $2.2 million annually in prison costs alone by decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The head of the state prison system acknowledged a savings, but a tenth as much. Taking a contrary view, Matthew Dawson of the state attorney general's office said there would be “zero savings,” because state prosecutors would be forced to litigate scores of cases they now plead down to simple possession of marijuana. He said “there is no one in prison for marijuana only,” and that every person in state prison on a pot charge had a lengthy, and in some cases, violent criminal history.