Source: Eric W. Dolan

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican turned Independent, on Wednesday signed into law a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

The Providence Journal reported that the law makes possessing an ounce or less of marijuana a civil violation with a $150 fine. However, three violations within 18 months would be a misdemeanor with larger fines and possibly prison.

Half of the money collected by the fines will be put towards drug awareness and treatment programs for youths.

Last year, Chafee asked the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug.

Sixteen states, including Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana. However, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration still classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug: the most restrictive classification reserved for dangerous drugs with no real medical value.

“Americans’ attitudes toward medically prescribed marijuana are changing, and medical organizations throughout the country – including the Rhode Island Medical Society and the American Medical Association – have come to recognize the potential benefits of marijuana for medical use,” Chafee said at the time.