Officials Look for Guidelines on MJ Initiative

Officials Look for Guidelines on MJ Initiative
Posted by CN Staff on November 06, 2008 at 05:57:09 PT
By David Abel, Globe Staff 
Source: Boston Globe
Boston, MA --  How will a police officer know whether someone is carrying more than an ounce of marijuana? Will those caught smoking it present sufficient probable cause for an officer to search them or their car? How will officers cite people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and will there be an appeals process?A day after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, law enforcement officials around the state wondered how they would implement the new law and how it would change their work.
"This is certainly going to make the work of many police officers a lot more complicated," said Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. "We're going to need guidance from the attorney general and district attorneys. There are a lot of things to work out."The passage of Question 2 will make getting caught with less than an ounce of pot punishable by a civil fine of $100. It also means the offense will no longer be reported to the state's criminal history board. The law will require those younger than 18 to complete a drug awareness program and community service, and for those who don't, the fine will increase to as much as $1,000.In a statement yesterday, Attorney General Martha Coakley said the proposition will become law 30 days after the secretary of state presents the official results to the Governor's Council, which usually meets in late November or early December. Until that time, existing law remains in effect.State officials are going to discuss how to implement the law with "a parallel civil regulatory structure," she said. "We are reviewing all of the implications of the new law and whether further clarification or guidance is needed."Lawmakers could also seek to amend or repeal the new law, but that does not appear likely, given that 65 percent of voters approved the proposition."The voters have voted," Governor Deval Patrick said at a press conference. He directed Public Safety and Security Secretary Kevin Burke "to confer with the attorney general and district attorneys on what the implications are for implementation."Afterward, Joe Landolfi, a spokesman for Patrick, said there are no plans to try to repeal the law. Spokesmen for Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi added that they have not heard of any effort to block the initiative from becoming law.But police and prosecutors - most of whom opposed the proposition because, they contended, it would send the wrong message and boost crime - said they will have to reexamine a range of standard operating procedures.Chief Brian Kyes of the Chelsea Police Department worries about what will constitute probable cause for searching someone found with marijuana. "If it's a civil infraction, not a crime, can police officers search for more evidence?" Kyes asked. "Now that might constitute a bad search, and that definitely will require significant changes."Chief Frederick Ryan of the Arlington Police Department worried that it will be harder to arrest drug dealers, because people caught with small amounts of marijuana might not act as informants. "Now, one of our tools in our tool chest to identify drug traffickers has been taken away."Frank Pasquerello, a spokesman for the Cambridge Police Department, wondered whether officers will have to carry scales."Now, we're going to have to figure out how much they had, not whether they were carrying it, and that's a lot more difficult."He also wondered whether there would be increased penalties for those caught repeatedly with marijuana, as happens for those violating speeding laws. "If someone is stopped six times, does it then become arrestable?" Pasquerello said. "There are a lot of questions for everyone."Michael O'Keefe, district attorney for the Cape and Islands, said he and other law enforcement officials plan to discuss many of the issues at a meeting tomorrow. He said the state must create a way to collect fines and enforce the collection. It also will need a new system for counseling and community service."For motor vehicle offenses, we have a Registry of Motor Vehicles. . . . Are we going to have a Registry of Marijuana Smokers?" he asked.One of the concerns of opponents was what they described as the increased potency of the drug. "I remain very concerned about the effects of this on kids," O'Keefe said.Edward F. Davis - Boston's police commissioner, who also opposed the initiative - said the law should not be harder to enforce than others on the books.While he remains concerned that more people will drive under the influence, he said the new law "won't drastically affect how we do business."He pointed out that fines issued to those caught with the drug at the city's annual HempFest would be doubled under the new law. And he said his officers rarely turned those arrested for possession into informants and routinely made judgments about weight without a scale."I'm disappointed that it went through . . . but I don't think the sky is falling by any stretch of the imagination," Davis said.Matt Viser of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Source: Boston Globe (MA)Author:  David Abel, Globe Staff Published: November 6, 2008 Copyright: 2008 Globe Newspaper CompanyContact: letter globe.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy Voters Approve Marijuana Law Change Voters OK Decriminalization of Marijuana
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Comment #3 posted by John Tyler on November 08, 2008 at 21:17:32 PT
end of Drug War
This kind of thing could wreck the whole Drug War racket. Imagine not being able to arrest cannabis users and give them a financial “shake down”. Wouldn’t that be great?
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on November 06, 2008 at 08:06:53 PT
My God, how will we know what to do!!??
The public officials are lost now.Jeans or khakis?Steak or fish?Sweetened or unsweetened?Would you like fries with that?OK, put on your thinking caps public officials.One potential outcome they point out that will really be a positive is this: ....because people caught with small amounts of marijuana might not act as informants. "Now, one of our tools in our tool chest to identify drug traffickers has been taken away."Well, that would be wonderful if we no longer take average, untrained citizens and force them into undercover work against organized crime. Good riddance to that practice!
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on November 06, 2008 at 06:09:22 PT
Mass. tanks!
" ....but I don't think the sky is falling by any stretch of the imagination," Davis said.No but his budget is about to tank! :.)Tanks alot Mass.!
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