For many people in New England (and, let’s face it, across the country), the question of legalizing marijuana has been raised repeatedly over time, but now the chorus is getting louder. After seeing the success of states like Colorado who have legalized marijuana and have seen tax revenues and industry explode as a result, lawmakers in Rhode Island have actually taken another step toward legalization by creating a commission to explore the possibility of legalizing pot in the state.

According to a news report in the Providence Journal, nineteen panelists were selected by the General Assembly to explore the possibility and feasibility of legalizing marijuana in the state. The resolution was drafted in June and the panelists are supposed to deliver their recommendations to the assembly by March 1st. The committee begins meeting this month, in October. According to the new

According to the Journal’s story, commission members include state and local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, members of substance abuse counsels and organizations, chamber of commerce officials, a medical marijuana patient, a criminal defense lawyer, and a therapist, among others. It is clear that the panel was designed to represent individuals across a broad spectrum of disciplines and social approaches to provide balance and thought to the discussion of legalization.

While citizens wait for the panel’s final decision, individuals who are arrested for possession of marijuana still may face criminal prosecution as a result. Depending on the situation, the individual’s criminal history, and the amount of marijuana in their possession, individuals may face heavy fines and even jail time if they are apprehended by law enforcement with pot on them.

If marijuana were to be legalized in Rhode Island, Cape Cod, or anywhere in New England, these issues would clearly become obsolete for many people, especially those who are charged with minor infractions, like possessing a small amount of weed. Personally, I feel that our jail system and the huge issue of overcrowding would be helped tremendously if people were not jailed for minor offenses. By legalizing marijuana especially (which I personally think is harmless, but that is a debate I’ll save for another blog post) it is hard to argue that we can alleviate some of the stress and strain on our already overwhelmed legal system.

Attorneys in the Northeast tend to agree, like this criminal defense attorney that I found through a Google search for defense attorneys in the Northeast, James Powderly. His firm represents individuals in Massachusetts who were charged with crimes ranging from serious offenses like assault, burglary, and murder, to non-violent offenses like possession of marijuana. Criminal defense attorneys routinely represent clients who are facing criminal charges for offenses that in other states in the U.S., (we’re looking at you, Colorado and Washington) are completely legal activities, and are relatively harmless.

In Rhode Island, lawmakers are at least making progress by discussing the possibility of legalizing marijuana so that people will not have to suffer the consequences of possessing the drug for personal, recreational use, an activity that I have made plainly clear on this blog many times, is something that I personally do not have an issue with at all. Maybe other states in the area, like Massachusetts and New York will follow suit if Rhode Island legalizes marijuana?