Voters To Consider Relaxing Marijuana Laws

Voters To Consider Relaxing Marijuana Laws
Posted by CN Staff on November 03, 2008 at 06:48:52 PT
By Leslie Ogden
Source: Tufts Daily
MA -- Massachusetts voters tomorrow will consider whether decriminalizing marijuana would lead to greater drug abuse and crime or provide relief from unnecessarily harsh laws and benefit law enforcement agencies and taxpayers.If passed, Question 2 will replace the current law with a penalty similar to a speeding ticket. Offenders who are 18 or older will be required to relinquish their marijuana and pay a $100 fine. Those under 18 will be subject to the same regulations, and their parents or guardian will be alerted.
Minors will be required to complete a drug awareness course that involves 10 hours of community service and at least four hours in a class.Various law enforcement officials, district attorneys, educators, health- care workers, businesses and community leaders oppose the question. Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone also advocates a “no” vote.“The mayor has argued that under current law, Somerville has made significant inroads against alcohol and drug abuse among young people in the city and believes that the deterrent effect of the current law is a useful tool for discouraging young people from taking up marijuana use,” Somerville spokesperson Tom Champion told the Daily.On the other hand, organizations such as the Greater Boston Civil Rights Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union strongly back Question 2. They argue that its changes would not be harmful because marijuana would remain illegal. They emphasize that laws against trafficking, distribution and driving under the influence would remain unaffected regardless of the outcome.Champion argued that loosening laws would boost marijuana abuse, which would have a multifaceted impact on society.“Turning the possession of one ounce or less into a civil offense could easily increase demand for marijuana. An increase in demand could also increase the amount of criminal activity in the city,” Champion said.In support of Question 2, Whitney Taylor, the campaign manager for the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said that 11 other states from California to North Carolina have laws similar to that proposed in Question 2, and rates of abuse in those states have not gone up.“They began passing these laws in the 1970s, and we have 30 years of data to back it up. The White House commissioned a report that was carried out by the National Research Council, and they came to the conclusion that changing the penalty system does not impact the rates of abuse. The World Health Organization also completed an international survey and came to the same conclusion,” Taylor said.A primary argument against Question 2 is that decriminalization would appear to constitute an endorsement of substance abuse and would send the wrong message to young people.The referendum’s detractors worry that marijuana is a leading cause of juvenile crime and hospital admissions. There is a heavier correlation between juvenile crimes and marijuana than between juvenile crimes and alcohol, according to the 2008 Official Massachusetts Information for Voters.“From the city’s point, whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug, it is certainly, from the standpoint of criminal activity, a companion drug. It is usually supplied by the same gangs and criminal organizations that supply harder drugs,” Champion said.According to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, the state is spending $29.5 million a year on arresting and booking individuals for marijuana. He called this wasteful. “With all this talk and all these cuts across the state, the amendment focuses the dwindling law enforcement on more serious crime,” Miron said.If Question 2 passes, marijuana citations will go to the municipalities where the offenses happened, and the local governments will be able to use the money raised from those citations as they like.Question 2 would additionally end a trend in which the state issues over 7,000 Criminal Offender Record Information reports for marijuana possession each year. “These reports create barriers to employment, housing, loans to go to school, and create a lifetime ban on being a foster or adoptive parent and becoming a teacher,” Taylor said.Massachusetts law already requires judges to dismiss charges and seal the records of those who are caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana for the first time.Tufts University Police Department Captain Mark Keith, who was a deputy sheriff in California for eight years before coming to Tufts, would not comment on his position, but said that Tufts would make any changes needed to accommodate the new policy, should Question 2 pass.“My job as a police officer would be to enforce the law, whatever that is, and if it changes, then myself and my staff will make the changes accordingly,” Keith said.“There are very few instances in my 20 years at Tufts where anyone has been arrested for under an ounce of marijuana. It’s a minor offense and the violators would be sent to the Judicial Affairs Office. As far as arrests, [Question 2] wouldn’t have a big impact,” Keith said.Source: Tufts Daily (MA Edu)Author: Leslie OgdenPublished: November 3, 2008Copyright: 2008 Tufts DailyContact: letters tuftsdaily.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy Align Over Pot Decriminalization Question Enforcers Call For 'No' Vote on Marijuana
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Comment #2 posted by charmed quark on November 04, 2008 at 18:07:59 PT
Pennsylvania called for Obama. This means McCain is probably toast...
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Comment #1 posted by goneposthole on November 03, 2008 at 19:26:30 PT
increased demand
No amount of legislation, law enforcement, or even drug rehabilitation can curb demand. The desire to have something cannot be diminished.The demand is there because people desire to use cannabis. An immovable and irrepressible fact that won't budge.All of the laws,law enforcement in the world won't change the fact that cannabis is a commodity that's traded on a daily basis and it will not go away. Desire is the catalyst.The only thing left to do is to legalize cannabis. When alcohol prohibition ended, President Roosevelt said it is time for a beer.It is time to lighten up on cannabis. It'll be good for everybody.Voting for legalization will help more than it will hinder. It's called progress.
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