The names of students and staff interviewed have been changed to protect their anonymity.*
The decriminalization of marijuana went into effect on April 1, 2013, in Rhode Island, but there is still a stigma surrounding the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.
Although marijuana has been decriminalized in Rhode Island, that does not mean that ‘anything goes.’ But the state does have some of the most lenient repercussions for marijuana possession in the country. Persons possessing less than one ounce of marijuana may be charged with a civil violation and a maximum fine of $150. If you can a couple grinders, learn how to clean your grinder here.
Possessing one to five kilograms, however, is considered a felony, comes with a $500,000 fine and can result in a jail sentence anywhere from 10 to 50 years, according to Rhode Island state law.
An ounce may not seem like a lot to those who do not know their terms, so local student *Ethan Clark, an 18-year-old marijuana user, explained the terminology.
“I’ve never paid more than 10 bucks for a gram, and that’s about the size of your thumb; there’s 28 grams in an ounce so you can do the math,” Clark said. “Unless you’re partying with Snoop Dogg, I really don’t see why you would need that much herb.”
Although students can receive fines for possession, those who keep it under an ounce receive a much less severe penalty under Rhode Island’s laws compared to more conservative states. However, this is much the case on campus.
The university still firmly uses the guidelines set in place by the U.S. Department of Education, which states that possession of any marijuana on campus, recreational or prescription, is illegal. The same goes for any drug paraphernalia, such as posters or apparel.
Even though the university administration may be anti-weed, “UR-High” is still a well-known nickname. “Marijuana culture definitely exists amongst the students on campus,” 19-year-old *Samantha Quinn said.
Quinn doesn’t smoke, but says she does respect the decision of people who do. “Who am I to judge?” Quinn said. “They look like they’re truly loving life.”
An employee of a local smoke shop selling also best vape juices etc, Chris Pratt, also had some words to say about the student population’s enthusiasm towards smoking since decriminalization.
“We’ve been open as a retail store since the beginning of last year,” Pratt said. “But I don’t think that there’s been any direct effect on business. Rhode Island is pretty weed-friendly in general.”
Pratt also said that the majority of the shop’s business comes from students. “Business is for sure much slower during the summer,” he said. “Our most popular item is probably the cheaper glass spoon pipes, which are great for students on a budget.”
Although many people do not judge others for their marijuana use, that cannot be said for everyone. Marijuana is used to help addicts detox off hard drugs, according to a substance abuse treatment in St Louis, but they are still ridiculed. The stigma for marijuana is still there, whether your using it to detox or for people who use the drug medicinally, including
*Jeremy Bentley, a junior here at the URI.
“I’ve had my card for about 2 months now,” Bentley said. “I get really bad migraines a lot. I was actually hospitalized multiple times in my junior year of high school because of them. No prescription medicine I was ever prescribed seemed to work.”
Bentley’s first time trying marijuana was his freshman year of college, and he said it made a huge difference in his life.
“A friend of mine told me it takes the edge off, so I decided to try it,” Bentley said. “It’s only after that I decided to look into Canna Care.”
Canna Care is a division of MedEVal Corp., a corporation that helps qualify patients for medical marijuana programs in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
“The doctors there looked over my hospital records and determined that I would be a good candidate for medical marijuana,” Bentley said. “They actually gave me a really interesting article to read that was published in Europe back in 1927, stating that marijuana was the most effective treatment for migraines.”
Part of Bentley’s process was finding a caregiver to supply him. “He’s the one who grows and supplies my weed for me,” Bentley said. “He can hook me up with edibles too if I ask.”
Having a medicinal marijuana card sounds like every ‘pot-head’s’ dream, but Bentley has a much different outlook.
“I’m not a stoner,” Bentley said. “I don’t smoke just to get high, it helps me focus and it’s honestly just a part of my day. I think that there’s such a negative energy surrounding marijuana use because people abuse it and let it consume their lives.”
Bentley said that he doesn’t go out of his way to advertise the fact that he has a medical marijuana card. “My advice to you, if you’re willing to try smoking, no one really cares. If you think everyone is looking at you, trust me they’re not. They probably don’t even notice you.”