Sides Align Over Pot Decriminalization Question

Sides Align Over Pot Decriminalization Question
Posted by CN Staff on November 03, 2008 at 05:41:08 PT
By David Riley, Daily News Staff
Source: Metrowest Daily News
Massachusetts -- Voters will decide a statewide ballot question this week that would make possessing an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense instead of a crime.But long before Question 2 landed on the state ballot, Framingham voters were ahead of the curve in tackling the same debate. In 2000, 67 percent of voters in the 6th Middlesex District approved a non-binding ballot question urging their state representative to support similar legislation.
Jim Pillsbury, a Framingham resident and an architect of that ballot question, said lawmakers should have listened back then. "It was time years ago, and I think it clearly reflects the attitudes of working people," said Pillsbury, now mounting a write-in campaign for state Rep. Pam Richardson's seat.Framingham was the first of many communities to vote on such ballot questions. Thirty similar measures passed in legislative districts across the state in the last eight years, but the law has remained the same - with good reason, say many law enforcement officials.In a recent talk at Keefe Technical School in Framingham, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said the measure sends the wrong message to children, could reverse a decline in marijuana use among teens and foster a boom in marijuana sales of an ounce or less."It will create a cottage industry, aimed primarily at kids," Leone said.Possession of marijuana is now punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.A Yes vote on Question 2 would replace criminal penalties with civil ones. Violators would receive a citation similar to a traffic ticket and a fine up to $100.Juveniles would be fined and complete a Department of Youth Services program, including community service and a drug awareness program, or pay a bigger fine. Their parents also would be notified.Proponents say the measure would end the creation of arrest records called Criminal Offender Record Information reports that can stand in the way of getting jobs, housing or student loans."We think for a single offense, there should be no justice system involvement," said Whitney Taylor, chairwoman of the Yes on Question 2 campaign.The referendum also would save millions spent on low-level marijuana arrests, she said. Eleven other states have adopted similar laws as long ago as the '70s, with studies showing little evidence that marijuana use or crime increased, Taylor said."We're not asking Massachusetts voters to jump off into some unknown with us," she said.But Leone said many of these arguments are misleading. In the Bay State, first-time marijuana offenders receive only probation and records of the offense are sealed if they stay clean, he said. Yet citation records are easily available at town halls, he said.Concerns about CORI would be better handled by addressing CORI laws directly, he said.Police also do not troll for marijuana users, Leone said. In most cases, marijuana violations are charged in conjunction with other crimes, he said.And an ounce of marijuana is worth about $600 - no small amount, Leone said. He also expressed worries that the initiative is backed by out-of-state financiers like George Soros.However, Taylor said even if the offense on a CORI file is sealed, an employer can still tell the record exists just by looking at a statewide database - enough for an application to be tossed out. Meanwhile, it is highly unlikely anyone is going to town halls to look up civil citations, she said. She said Leone's estimate of the value of an ounce of marijuana is far off the mark, and in any case, Question 2 would have no effect on laws against the sale and trafficking of marijuana.And plenty of Massachusetts people are behind the measure, including 125,000 people who signed the petition to put Question 2 on the ballot, Taylor said.While Taylor said there is no evidence to support this, Leone predicted an uptick in crime and accidents if the question passes.Pillsbury said law enforcement has good reason to want the law to stay unchanged - "There's nothing easier than busting somebody for pot." He called most arguments against the measure "reefer madness" that has little basis in science.He predicted Tuesday's ballot question will mirror Framingham's vote eight years ago. "Decriminalization will pass and it will pass overwhelmingly in this state," Pillsbury said.Source: Metrowest Daily News (MA)Author: David Riley, Daily News StaffPublished: November 1, 2008Copyright: 2008 MetroWest Daily NewsContact: mdnletters cnc.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy Enforcers Call For 'No' Vote on Marijuana of Voters Want Marijuana Decriminalized 
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on November 03, 2008 at 14:47:55 PT:
The 'senders' aren't receiving
And that's a large part of the problem. They actually don't want to listen to any feedback, preferring to 'send' messages rather than be forced to take a good, hard look at how well that message has been received. Such is the nature of authoritarians; they do not want dialogue, they want unthinking, uncritical, immediate compliance. 
What those so intent upon sending such 'messages' have forgotten is that in behaving the way they are, they are unthinkingly sending another message, one that serves to undercut the content of the one they wanted to send and replaces it with something they don't want, and that something is a judgment upon both the content of their message and themselves for sending it. Judgment stemming from the rank hypocrisy inherent in claiming to 'protect' people from drugs by using drug prohibition laws to ruin their lives in ways the substances never could. Judgment for blind insistence upon maintaining those laws in the face of their inefficacy. Judgment for furthering a cause in which their personal stakes are largely monetary, combined with no small degree of fear afforded anyone who can destroy your life at a whim. Judgment for using the taxpayer's hard-earned tax dollars in attempts to derail the democratic process by stepping over the boundaries of conduct civil servants must maintain to prevent charges of corruption being leveled against them. And finally, judgment for being a bunch of sado-moralist jerks who'd prefer to see someone suffer when cannabis could alleviate that suffering. They'd rather not relent in their pogrom against what they see as hated minorities within society, no matter if it was their own kith and kin who could benefit from access. Yes, they send messages, alright, but not just the one they want to. What's not said by them shouts louder than anything they could possibly say...and their intended audience is hearing that, too... 
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