Committee Passes Marijuana Bill

Committee Passes Marijuana Bill
Posted by CN Staff on March 26, 2008 at 06:18:32 PT
By Kimberly Wexler
Source: Daily Free Press 
Massachusetts -- A bill that would reduce the punishment for marijuana possession in Massachusetts passed the Joint Committee on the Judiciary after a hearing last week, moving it one step closer to getting on the ballot in November.The legislation would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and reduce the punishment for "personal use" of marijuana from six months' probation and a driver's license suspension to a $250 fine.
Supporters of decriminalization in the State House and from outside advocacy organizations maintain the bill would not lead to increased drug use and would dole out a punishment proportionate to the offense, while opponents say the bill will lead to increased use of harder drugs like heroin. Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a Medford Democrat, sponsored the bill and said she thinks reducing the punishment to a civil offense would be a more effective use of public money and would promote public safety better than current rules. Similar bills have already passed in 11 other states and evidence shows that decriminalization does not increase drug use, she said. According to a study conducted by Harvard economics professor Jefferey Miron, the decriminalization of marijuana did not lead to any measurable increase in marijuana use in states that decriminalized marijuana, and could save law enforcement about $29.5 million annually.Steve Epstein, treasurer of Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, testified at last week's hearing and said though there is strong support for the bill, most people opposed to the bill think decriminalizing marijuana is a backward step in the war on drug abuse. "I think the bottom line is: it would be nice to know that sooner rather than later [that] persons over the age of 18 are not going to be handcuffed for smoking a little marijuana," Epstein said in a phone interview.Rep. Martin Walsh, a Boston Democrat, testified against the decriminalization of marijuana and said though 57 percent of his constituency voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, he would do "everything in his power" to prevent the bill's passage. Despite comparisons between alcohol and marijuana by reform supporters, Walsh said they are "two very different substances."Walsh said Massachusetts leads the country in rates of heroin abuse, and the rate would only increase if pot were legalized."The next step after marijuana potentially could be OxyContin, heroin and then the next step after that, as we all know, is jails, mental institutions or death," he said.Sen. Gale Candaras, a Wilbraham and chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said evidence suggests that alcohol is more a gateway drug than marijuana. Rep. Cory Atkins, a Concord Democrat, said the repercussions of marijuana convictions are more severe than the offense itself. "Marijuana is not considered to be one of the 'harder' drugs, yet kids get caught with it and it stays on their record forever," he said.Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of the Marijuana Laws, was arrested for smoking a joint at this year's Marijuana Freedom Rally at the Boston Common. "Last year, over 7,000 people had their lives needlessly scarred or interrupted for engaging in a relatively harmless activity," he said.Stroup, 64, said the charges would be dropped if he apologized, but he refused to make a statement. He said the effects of smoking pot are less harmful than the effects of cigarettes and alcohol. Whitney Taylor, the treasurer and chairwoman for the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said the initiative is well-supported because 30 public policy votes in the last seven years about the issue have passed every time with an average 63 percent majority.Taylor said the committee got well over the required number of signatures for the initiative's petition and will begin a second signature-gathering phase to get the issue on the November ballot. Students for Sensible Drug Policy member Stacy Fontana said students' attitude toward marijuana is different than that toward alcohol because the substances do not intoxicate people in the same way."You can smoke weed and still do school work, but no one gets drunk and then sits down to write a paper," she said. Source: Daily Free Press (Boston U, MA Edu)Author: Kimberly WexlerPublished: March 26, 2008Copyright: 2008 Back Bay Publishing, Inc.Contact: letters dailyfreepress.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:MassCann for Sensible Marijuana Policy To Legalize Marijuana Defends Proposal To Decriminalize Marijuana Legislators Know Your Stance on Marijuana
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #5 posted by rchandar on March 28, 2008 at 15:54:25 PT:
There Is A Considerable Difference
Yes, there is a considerable difference, and I'm glad that Representative Walsh suggests this. Alcohol completely uncorks your senses and makes you feel that you're invincible; pot smokers are reticent, reflective, introspective. Yes, there is a big, big difference.The difference is that Representative Walsh is a rich man; he sees the culture of alcohol as pleasant, friendly, innocuous, whereas the culture of MJ is criminal. The fact that he's a Boston representative is especially relevant; why should I give up the power to arrest all those criminal n ##gers who don't conform to my cryptic wishes? After all, I can't let them think for themselves, that's my job!--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by rchandar on March 28, 2008 at 15:46:14 PT:
It's really the only card they can play. Fortunately, pot users eat--it's a big difference with people who use cocaine, speed, heroin. Pot users are healthy--they do not show the signs of ill health. To say they're "addicted" is to project new things onto the identifiable psychological negatives--mostly, paranoia. They want to say that MJ use is a physical sickness, and very dangerous because a lot of the users are over 40 and responsible working people and taxpayers....See it's a conspiracy against the fragile moral and psychological fabric of our great--and troubled--country.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by rchandar on March 28, 2008 at 15:39:34 PT:
Ah! Well, Let me tell you...
The Massachusetts bill is an important one. It's been a long time since decrim was actually passed in any state. Am I wrong? It's time that the numbers increased.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Hope on March 26, 2008 at 11:26:20 PT
It's very, very frightening to think that they are wanting to dose "Marijuana Addicts" with a potentially deadly pharmaceutical drug, Lithium... to "cure" them.Lithium can kill and has killed.They have the gall to wonder why we compare them to Nazis or say they are behaving as though they are "Monsters", or compare their war on cannabis to something like The Inquisition, or to the people who killed and tortured others because they believed them to be witches?It's amazing and horrible to observe the behavior and judgment of the self righteous human and the destruction he can wreak on others in the name of that self-righteousness. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by paul armentano on March 26, 2008 at 08:51:23 PT
SAMHSA: Many Pot 'Addicts' Haven't Used Pot
SAMHSA: One-Third Of Marijuana ‘ Treatment’ Admissions Haven’t Used Pot!FYI... My latest blog post, with lots of imbedded links -- SAMHSA: One-Third Of Marijuana ‘Treatment’ Admissions Haven’t Used Pot!
March 25th, 2008 By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy DirectorAccording to a recent UPI news wire story, researchers are now proposing
prescribing the psychoactive prescription drug Lithium to so-called ‘pot
addicts’ to help them kick the habit. But just who are these alleged
‘addicts?’  According to the latest statistics from the US Department of Health and
Human Services, a startling high number of US government-defined marijuana ‘addicts’ don’t even smoke pot! That’s right, according to a recent DHS report, more than one-third of Americans entered into drug treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana ‘dependency’ haven’t used pot in the month prior to their admission.How’s this possible? It’s possible because the majority of folks admitted to
‘drug treatment’ for pot don’t need treatment at all, but were arrested and
ordered by a judge to attend rehab in lieu of going to jail.Nevertheless, the White House touts this phony ‘data’ as evidence that
marijuana is allegedly more dangerous than cocaine or heroin, and NIDA touts these numbers as evidence to support multi-million dollar ‘Cannabis
Addiction Centers.’Looking for the truth about marijuana use and dependency? Look no further
than my recent essay on the subject here, or you can ‘digg’ it
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment