Blazin' Saddles: Pot Ballot Question Gears Up 

Blazin' Saddles: Pot Ballot Question Gears Up 
Posted by CN Staff on September 05, 2007 at 09:40:54 PT
By Paul McMorrow
Source: Boston Weekly Dig 
MA -- Massachusetts, despite boasting the highest marijuana consumption rates in the country, has been conspicuously slow to soften the penalty for narcotic indulgence. Much of the blame belongs to Beacon Hill, which has, in the face of mounting pro-reform support, declined to act. So what do you do when the legislature won't cooperate? You go over its head. A group calling itself the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP) is aiming to put a binding pot-reform initiative petition before voters in 2008. The petition, which is drawn in large part from legislation that's been before the State House for years, would make possession of marijuana a civil offense, punishable by a fine of $100 and forfeiture of the weed.
Possession of more than an ounce, growing, selling and trafficking would remain illegal, as would driving under the influence of the drug and smoking in public. Youthful offenders would have to complete community service and take substance abuse prevention classes. The petition is more far-reaching in what it would prevent the state from doing: denying financial aid, public housing, unemployment or other public assistance programs to pot smokers. Violators also wouldn't have their names entered into the state's Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) database. Whitney Taylor, the committee's campaign director, says that, with criminal penalties and CORIs, "There's collateral damage there-for the next 15 years, they won't be able to get financial aid, an apartment, a job. This would create a penalty system where the punishment happens, then it's over, versus a punishment that goes on and on." Decriminalization bills have been floating around the legislature, in one form or another, for years. CSMP's petition is modeled closely after a bill filed two sessions ago by the late Senator Charles Shannon. Shannon was a longtime Lexington cop before his election to the legislature, and his conversion to the cause of decriminalization shocked many of his colleagues. "He wasn't any bleeding heart liberal," says Pat Jehlen, the longtime Somerville politician who was Shannon's House co-sponsor, and who now holds his state senate seat. "He had actually enforced drug laws." Jehlen has been the legislature's lead advocate for decriminalization since Shannon's passing. It was considered a major victory that, last session, the legislature's committee on mental health and substance abuse reported her decrim bill out of committee favorably; it was one of the few, if any, victories the pro-pot crowd has enjoyed on Beacon Hill. Then, logically enough, Jehlen's bill went to die a lonely, dusty death at the Ways and Means Committee. "The bottom line is, relying on the legislature doesn't work," says Michael Cutler, a former Mass Cann activist who's now working on the initiative petition campaign with Taylor. "Bills have been bandied about up there for years and years, and they usually don't even make it out of committee." At the same time, the public has become more overtly pro-marijuana reform. A series of local nonbinding public policy ballot questions, intended to prod the legislature into acting, saw spectacular success-so much so that reform-minded activists became convinced that they could win a statewide ballot campaign. "On the issue of marijuana policy, the public is ahead of the legislators," Taylor says. "It's been building for quite some time." "We've won every single time," Cutler adds. "We've never lost. Notwithstanding this popular support, the legislature is unwilling to move. And if politicians are that risk-averse, that's the role the initiative process was designed for. The people will speak on a statewide basis." Such optimism may be warranted. CSMP is being driven by a number of big-name Democratic activists-none of whom, we assume, are likely to be seen passing bowls to crusty-faced teenagers at next week's Freedom Rally. They include Wendy Kaminer, a lawyer and former ACLU board member, and her husband, developer and civil liberties activist Woody Kaplan; Ron Ansin, a developer, philanthropist and brother of Channel 7 owner Ed Ansin; Thomas Kiley, a prominent local lawyer and confidant of former senate president Robert Travaglini; Carl Valvo, Kiley's law partner and a former assistant attorney general; Charles Baron, a constitutional law scholar at BC Law School; and Rick Doblin, a medical marijuana activist and graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Collectively, they command tremendous political experience, connections and fundraising potential. "We have people who understand how it affects citizens, and people who know how to run a campaign-people who understand the Commonwealth, who understand local politics and who know how to win," Taylor boasts. At the same time that Taylor's organization is scrambling to amass the 66,000 good signatures needed for ballot access, its counterpart, Jehlen's bill, will continue to wend its way through the legislature. A public hearing, which should take on heightened importance in light of the ballot petition, is scheduled for November. "It's taking a long time to get a hearing," Jehlen says, "but there's a possibility that the ballot question might push things. In 1994, when we had a vote on medical marijuana, we had a lot of support, but there was a lot of fear that people would be branded as soft on crime. We'll see. Sometimes, a ballot question gets us to do things. It did with health care." Source: Boston Weekly Dig (MA)Author: Paul McMorrowPublished: September 5, 2007Copyright: 2007 Boston Weekly DigContact: letters weeklydig.comWebsite: for Sensible Marijuana Policy -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #15 posted by cannabliss on September 07, 2007 at 06:37:15 PT
New Penalties
I'll agree this is hardly groundbreaking. It doesn't help when the "lefty" newsweekly uses inaccurate, propogandistic terminology such as "narcotic" or cheesy headlines.Speaking of which, I am proposing a set of penalties which I believe will improve the quality of cannabis journalism. Let me know what you think.Penalties for the use of the following words or phrases in headlines of articles discussing cannabis policy:LIGHT, BLAZE, FIRE: 1 year and/or $20,000SPARKING DEBATE: 2 years and/or $40,000DOPEY, DOPED, etc: 3 years and/or $60,000A GROWING PROBLEM: 4 years and/or $80,000IN A HAZE, HAZY ISSUE: 5 years and/or $100,000and last but not least...UP IN SMOKE: permanent exile to Saudi Arabia
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on September 06, 2007 at 07:47:44 PT
I agree. That's why I am spending so much time reading about where we are headed and how politicians stand on issues. 
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Comment #13 posted by OverwhelmSam on September 06, 2007 at 07:35:35 PT
Re-Claiming the Nation
Simple, vote every sitting politician out of office, expecially district attorneys and sheriffs. Abracadabra, brand new government overnight, maybe even one that listens to the people.
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Comment #12 posted by Toker00 on September 06, 2007 at 03:50:18 PT
Call to action.
Since Congress won't stop the war, we have to stop Congress. participate in re-claiming our Nation. Even if it SEEMS impossible.Toke.
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Comment #11 posted by mayan on September 06, 2007 at 01:50:22 PT
Rudy has a lot of dirt on him that won't be reported by the msm. It is up to the people to see that this is his undoing...Who Told Giuliani the WTC was Going to Collapse on 9/11?
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Comment #10 posted by whig on September 06, 2007 at 01:37:12 PT
Posted the wrong thing altogether,
it's amusing though.Here's the right one:
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Comment #9 posted by whig on September 06, 2007 at 01:36:07 PT
The Real Rudy:
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Comment #8 posted by mayan on September 06, 2007 at 01:34:00 PT
Other News
Drug schemes save money, lives: report (Aus):'One cannabis joint led to our girl's suicide':
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Comment #7 posted by mayan on September 06, 2007 at 00:48:47 PT
Official Version Blown To Hell
They just keep coming...U.S. Navy 'Top Gun' Pilot Questions 9/11:
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Comment #6 posted by afterburner on September 05, 2007 at 22:40:43 PT
OT: Reactions to Ontario's civil forfeiture law
Canada: Editorial: The Unfairness Of The Forfeiture Law, Globe and Mail, (03 Sep 2007) Organized Crime Law Misses Its Target: Critics, National Post, (05 Sep 2007) the guilty-until-proven-innocent over-reaction to 9/11.
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Comment #5 posted by whig on September 05, 2007 at 22:39:06 PT
I agree with duzt
This is incredibly lame.
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Comment #4 posted by tintala on September 05, 2007 at 21:53:03 PT:
WE MUST SUPPORT THE REFORM ORGANIZATIONS such as norm and, However, if we get medicinal cannabis legal then MAYBE we can get INDUSTRIAL HEMP LEGAL>
Support these organizations.
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on September 05, 2007 at 18:12:57 PT
Represent Or Be Replaced
Our government is no longer a representative government. We must make our so-called leaders understand that either they REPRESENT us, or we REPLACE them!THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...In Their Own Words: The Untold Stories Of The 9/11 Families: Of Largest 9/11 Families Group Says Government Cover-Up (video): to Churches in Indiana: from Popular Mechanics owned! ARE CHANGE 9/11/07: FOR MAINSTREAM - 9/11:
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Comment #2 posted by duzt on September 05, 2007 at 17:11:52 PT
how incredibly lame
their big push is to make it a $100 offense and to confiscate???? You go mass!!! jackasses. How is that improving anything???? My god, even Nevada has those laws. How about passing laws that make it no offense to be a responsible person who smokes a joint or 2 at night. If we don't stop these idiots from punishing us for doing nothing then what is the point??? Nobody has a right to mess with my plants. Here in Mendo we passed a law that allows 25 plants for anybody and the police have had to accept it. It's our country, these people need to think bigger and quit being such cowards. We have the right to grow, they can't arrest us all.
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Comment #1 posted by Taylor121 on September 05, 2007 at 15:58:52 PT
Support Legalization Organizations
Gotta donate peeps! You can donate to educational funds to avoid your money going to lobbying efforts if you feel that lobbying is bad. 
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