Constitutional Daily

Founding Principles

The Tenure Paradox - Robot pimp

Slap on the Wrist for "Non-Consensual Sex" - Lampshade, Esq.

Intelligence: The Gathering - Graphic and Gratuitous

Grads are the New Illegals - Robot Pimp

Meet Entitlement Eric - Robot Pimp

Wherein I Solve World Peace - Lampshade, Esq.

A Necessary Delusion - Shadow Hand

Do you even need to shave overhead? - Lawyerlite

LSAT Jenga - Publius Picasso

Time, Place, and Manner

...Should have some links here or something.


Not Quite Jamaica, Rhode Island Decriminalizes Marijuana

E-mail Print PDF

Recreational marijuana smokers in Rhode Island can now enjoy that habit without fear of criminal penalties. The new RI law goes into effect today, changing the penalty for being an adult caught with small amounts marijuana from possible jail time and/or $500 fine to a $150 fine.

With Colorado and Washington leading the way last November, many states are having similar discussions in their legislatures. Rhode Island neighbor, Maryland, currently has a bill in the House for decriminalizing marijuana. The measure already passed in the Senate. Maine introduced a bill for legalization with 35 cosponsors last week.

If you like interactive maps as much as we do, check out this one on, a site working to reform marijuana laws. You can click tags by state to see what states have decriminalized, legalized, and allowed medical marijuana use.

On the one hand, it’s great that we’re making progress on getting rid of stupid pot laws. Lighter punishments and a lack of a criminal record is a nice step in the right direction (especially come C&F time). But on the other hand, decriminalization isn’t quite what it sounds like. Under the new Rhode Island law, your third offense within 18 months is a misdemeanor. The prosecution will get to prove one element of the crime, the two prior possessions, with a diminished burden of proof because those earlier offenses were civil matters without a reasonable doubt standard. To pile on, in civil matters you also don’t have the right to counsel.

We already hear Scott Greenfield asking “but what about the clients?” but come on, fewer criminal marijuana cases means a lot less work for lawyers. Especially young lawyers who need these minor offenses to learn the ropes, and who rely on court appointments while building a network and reputation.

Sure decriminalization reduces the workload for law enforcement and prosecutors, freeing them up to go after serious offenses. And it will reduce overcrowding in jails which is another cost savings to the state, not to mention the savings to the people who don’t have to go to jail. But won’t someone think of the lawyers? This is just kicking the legal employment scene when it’s already down.

In Ohio, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Oregon, possession is still a misdemeanor, but there’s no risk of incarceration, just a fine (ranging from $150 if you’re lucky and in Ohio, or $1000, if you’re not lucky and you’re in Oregon). Of course, for your second offense, incarceration and the need to hire an attorney come back on the table.

California, Mississippi, and Nebraska will let you go with a non-criminal infraction the first time, but it’s a jail-able misdemeanor the second. In Nevada and New York, you get until your third offense before you’re looking at jail time.

If this trend keeps up soon we’re going to see full legalization of marijuana and thousands of attorneys who are out of work and thus unable to afford their own marijuana.

We need to reverse this dangerous trend and go in a new direction: legalization of marijuana for middle-class white people. Keep it criminalized for poor minorities, to provide for a bulk of cases, and also criminalized for 16-25 year old white kids from upper-class families who will pay a lot to keep the charges off their records, to provide for quality cases. That keeps money flowing into the legal market, while protecting the lawyers themselves from prosecution.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Philadelphia Lawyer, Unfiltered

The finest blend of analysis, advice, and fury on the internet. Sour mash, oak barrel aged, published at cask strength.


Most Recent Article:

In Defense of Risk (Happy Fourth of July)

All Articles from The Philadelphia Lawyer

Author Profile

The Robot Pimp

An in depth look at the emerging intersection of law, behavioral economics, and robots.

Most Recent Article:

The Tenure Paradox

All Articles from The Robot Pimp

Author Profile

Practice Makes Putrid

Legal practice would be all rainbows and buttercups, if it weren't for the clients, and opposing counsel, and co-counsel, and judges, and the law.

Most Recent Article:

Eat Mor Fiv Freedums

All Articles from The Namby Pamby

Author Profile

Gin and Glannon's

As Shadow Hand suffers through law school, the rest of us get a little Schadenfreude.

Most Recent Article:

I Just Work Here

All Articles From Shadow Hand

Author Profile

Irresistible Impulse

Dr. Rob Dobrenski's daring expedition into the psychology of lawyers and the law. (Not a substitute for a life well lived.)

Most Recent Article:

You're Not a Failure, You're a Narcissist

All Articles from Dr. Rob

Author Profile

Graphic and Gratuitous

Sometimes cartoons are the highest form of communication. Those times are known as "most of the time."

Most Recent Cartoons:

Intelligence: The Gathering

All Cartoons

There And Never Back Again

Defunct Big Law attorney BL1Y shares his misadventures as a writer who accidentally went to law school.


Most Recent Article:


All Articles from BL1Y

Author Profile

Lampshade, Esquire

We're dealing with some technical difficulties here. Hold up a minute.

All Articles From Lampshade, Esq.

Staff Infections

News, humor, and other non-billables from our underpaid, uncredited, unsexy staff.


News Articles

Smaller News Bits

Large Numbers of Law

Mixed Bag of Lawesome


Scofflaw Multistate Bar Review