Talk of Marijuana Sparks Lively Debate

Talk of Marijuana Sparks Lively Debate
Posted by CN Staff on October 25, 2008 at 17:20:05 PT
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Source: Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, MA -- Berkshire County's top law enforcer locked horns last night with the spokeswoman for a campaign dedicated to decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.District Attorney David F. Capeless clashed with Whitney A. Taylor, campaign manager for "YES on Question 2," during a debate on the contentious topic at Berkshire Community College.
Voters will consider Question 2, a binding referendum, when they go to the polls on Nov. 4.The measure would replace the state's criminal penalties for possession of an ounce of pot or less with civil penalties, including a $100 fine for all offenders and mandatory drug education classes and community service for all minors.Taylor and other Question 2 proponents say the goal is to keep people who are arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana from acquiring criminal records, which could prevent them from getting jobs, housing or college loans.But Capeless and the state's other 10 district attorneys, all of whom oppose Question 2, say an ounce of marijuana is not a small quantity of the drug, and passage of the measure would send the wrong message to commonwealth residents.Taylor called Question 2 "a modest proposal" that would "end the arrest and booking process" for those caught with small amounts of pot. The goal, she said, is to prevent the generation of a Criminal Offender Record Information report, or CORI, which can haunt people for the rest of their lives."We believe that for this single offense ... that punishment does not fit the crime," she said.Under current law, marijuana possession is punishable by fines of up to $500 and jail sentences of up to six months. However, if the ballot measure passes, the crime would turn into a $100 civil fine. Meanwhile, offenders under age 18 would be required to perform community service and to attend drug education classes.Capeless said Question 2 is a first step toward decriminalizing marijuana, a gateway drug often linked to more serious crimes.While marijuana use among teenagers has dropped over the past five years, Question 2 would buck that trend, according to Capeless."It sends the wrong message to our kids," he said, adding that overall marijuana use has declined by 25 percent nationwide since 2002.The district attorney predicted more young people would try the drug if Question 2 is approved.An ounce of marijuana is equivalent to about 50 individual pot sales, or dozens of joints, according to law enforcement officials.Taylor maintained that a person caught with a small amount of pot could face negative ramifications for years to come, particularly when it comes to finding employment.But Capeless strongly refuted that claim, pointing out that the case of a first-time offender would be continued without a finding for six months. At that point, the charge would be dismissed and the criminal record would be sealed, Capeless said."Sealed means sealed," the district attorney said with emphasis, "and no CORI check will ever reveal that record."Capeless said the notion that a person will have a record that follows them through life is simply untrue.No matter, Taylor said, " A piece of paper is spit out that says 'Sealed Record.'" And that, she said, could be bad enough for anyone looking for a job, a loan or an apartment.Taylor claimed the state spends roughly $30 million annually in police resources to enforce current marijuana possession laws, funds that could be better spent combating violent crime.Capeless and other law enforcement officials have questioned the veracity of that figure, noting that, in most cases, people who are incarcerated typically have multiple charges lodged against them, not merely a pot possession charge.The debate was sponsored by the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition and Berkshire Community College.Source: Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)Author: Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle StaffPublished: Friday, October 24, 2008Copyright: 2008 New England Newspapers, Inc.Contact: letters berkshireeagle.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy Question 2: Possession of MJ Decriminalization of Voters Want Marijuana Decriminalized
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Comment #8 posted by potpal on October 27, 2008 at 06:00:34 PT
a $2500 tale
I have a friend in PA who while traveling home from the Jersey shore after having attended a high school reunion this past summer was stopped and busted for 2 grams of pot in Berlin, NJ. He spent 35 hours in jail. He went with a public defender and got away (this past week) with a disorderly conduct charge. It cost him $2500, 3 trips back&forth to NJ and a year of pee testing in which he'll need to travel back to NJ. They confiscated his movie camera, having some candy in his car and a water pistel, he was treated as a suspect child molester and has yet to receive his camera back. LEOs wanted to view what was on it. In any case, how many Joe Six Packs can afford to be shaked down for $2500 today (and that's the low end)? Many are living pay check to pay check. A $2500 dollar, not counting the inconvenience factor and traveling and days off work, hole in these times is often insurmountable.
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on October 26, 2008 at 22:19:20 PT
Dongenero Comment 4 
Will prohibitionists ever get the message that law is about justice and is not even supposed to be about "Messages to children". They've got to stop that. They've got to.The only messages they are really sending aren't what they think they are "sending".The message the children and everyone else are getting from all their unjust laws, hatefulness, fear, hysteria, vindictiveness, lack of reason, and cruelty is that lawmakers behind these draconian prohibition laws are dictatorial nuts.
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Comment #6 posted by goblet on October 26, 2008 at 20:55:03 PT:
an ounce vs. ????
"An ounce of marijuana is equivalent to about 50 individual pot sales, or dozens of joints, according to law enforcement officials."what is the quantity limit on booze? when the prohib shows the equiv. baggie of what an ounce looks like, we can hold up a gallon of vodka and point out that it represents a potentially lethal dose, yet "joe six pack" can go and buy as many gallons as he wants at costco.
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Comment #5 posted by John Tyler on October 26, 2008 at 08:36:08 PT
weak reasons
I read this article and essentially this is the prohibitionist argument against changing the cannabis possession law a $100 civil fine. It would send the wrong message to the public that cannabis OK, (This would essentially admit that the laws prohibiting cannabis have been wrong for the last 70+ years.) and possibly more people would try it, and that it is a gateway drug to something else. These are all incredibly weak arguments as reasons to justify arresting, jailing, giving someone a permanent criminal record. Unless, that is the real reason for keeping them in the first place.
Cannabis laws are part of the group of unjust social control laws that have slowly been abandoned over the last few decades. It is past time for this one to go to the garbage dump of history too.
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on October 26, 2008 at 08:02:11 PT
Through the accounts in this article, it sounds like Whitney Taylor defended the YES position effectively. She refuted the sealed record argument.What amazes me from the prohibitionist side is this ongoing ridiculous whine of "message to the children". How about this, let's send a message to the children that we are honest, fair and reasonable in how we treat adults and their liberty and freedom in a free country.Then they try to argue that nobody is really getting in trouble due to these laws anyway. Oh yea, we divert all these cases, we dismiss all these cases. Right, when you get busted it's really like going to Disney Land, Mr. Capeless. Look, if indeed you really do not prosecute, and that is your argument, then it is certainly time to remove the laws from the books.Good job Whitney Taylor
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Comment #3 posted by potpal on October 26, 2008 at 05:13:59 PT
It's always the prosecuters and law enforcement that balk when a move toward sensible reform for the failed war (on some) drugs arises. They are the guardians of this failed prohibition. Their world revolves around it, but its spinning the wrong way.Prohibiting cannabis, the plant, in all its forms, from benefiting the human race is the true crime. Kap, I like your take on it. Desperados. Let the debate begin.
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on October 26, 2008 at 00:43:31 PT
Colorado has been thought of as swing state, or an important state in the upcoming election; and it could go either way. It's a battle-ground state.The Democratic National Convention was in ColoradoThe Republicans would like to win Colorado, especially to get the prize, after the Dem Convention was held here...Now I'm reading there is this issue, alleging that tens of thousands people have been wrongly removed from the state’s voting rolls. Colo. secretary of state sued over voter purges it's another one of those situations where an issue is legal as a state law but illegal as a federal law!!!In My mind it shares some of the mechanics of medical cannabis which is legal in Colorado but illegal on the federal level; and it makes Me wonder if one legal conflict may effect the other... -0-Another news item that puts the election issue in question is this one: "Denver checking whereabouts of 11,000 mail ballots",000%20mail%20ballots-0-Remeber how Florida was a battle ground state?By and large Colorado is a Republican, conservative stronghold. You wouldn't know it from some of the liberal laws on the surface... but it's history shows plenty of Republican control / power.It would be a shame for Colorado to be the next Florida.-0-It's worth noting Obama leads McCain in a way that dubious slight of hand may not change."Obama has double-digit lead in Colorado"
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on October 25, 2008 at 19:01:41 PT:
Good. This means they're desperate.
The prohibitionists are finally being chivvied into the inevitable debate as to the efficacy and desirability of cannabis prohibition. Which is the cornerstone of modern drug prohibition. And, true to form, all they can say is their same old canards ('sends a bad message to kids', 'overall marijuana use has declined by 25 percent nationwide since 2002', blah, blah, other words, 'talking points')....which becomes immediately apparent to anyone with a functioning cortex. They really are limited in what they can say, repeating the same lines over and over again, like a scratched phonograph record. Gets kinda boring...and insulting to the intelligence. Which the prohibs assume their audience is lacking in, anyway, or they wouldn't do it.No matter. The economic writing that has been on the wall for over 8 years is now written so large that it cannot be missed. The time of cutbacks in governmental operations is upon us, and soon you'll hear pols making very serious statements about the need to reduce spending on various government programs to ensure the vital ones are maintained. And arguably the most wasteful and pointless of those programs are those connected with the DrugWar. And that's partly why the prohibs are finally turning and facing us after running for so long. There's nothing but a wall behind them, the one with that writing on it, and they've no place left to run...
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