Efforts to relax pot rules gaining momentum in US

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rhode Island is poised to become the 15th state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana, a move that reflects big shifts in public opinion on America's favorite illicit drug.

State lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation last week that would replace criminal penalties for possession of an ounce or less of pot with something more like a traffic ticket.

Supporters say Americans are increasingly opposed to harsh penalties for pot use. A recent Rasmussen poll shows support for legalizing marijuana is up to 56 percent, the highest ever.

Supporters say no one should get a criminal record for possessing a small amount of a substance less harmful than alcohol. But critics say pot is far from benign and that decriminalization sends a bad message to teens and could ultimately lead to legalization.

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