MA Ballot Initiative Makes Pot a Civil Offense

MA Ballot Initiative Makes Pot a Civil Offense
Posted by CN Staff on November 12, 2008 at 09:28:11 PT
By Emma Berry
Source: Brown Daily Herald
Massachusetts -- A wide array of pundits has been referring to the recent election as "historic" because, for the first time, an African-American was elected president. But for Jeff Morris, a sophomore at Suffolk University in Boston, the election was historic for a different reason.
Morris, who started a chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws at Suffolk this semester, is celebrating the passage of Massachusetts Ballot Question 2, which decriminalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, making it a civil offense instead of a criminal one."The next day I got to school, everyone was just really excited," Morris said. "I heard more about Question 2 than about Barack Obama winning."Under the new law, people caught with one ounce or less of marijuana in Massachusetts must forfeit the drug and pay a $100 fine. Those under the age of 18 must also complete a drug awareness program, and are subject to fines of up to $1,000 if they do not complete the program within a year.Under the current law, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor that can carry up to a $500 fine and six months in jail. Under the new law, which is expected to take effect in January, possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is considered possession with an intent to distribute, and is still a crime.The bill, which passed by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent, received wide support among college students but was opposed by a broad coalition of Massachusetts lawmakers and police. Although the law has yet to be submitted to the state legislature for review - where it could still be amended or repealed - one district attorney has already said he will drop all pending simple possession marijuana cases.Thomas Nolan, associate professor of criminal justice at Boston University and a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, said he believed decriminalization is "the right course." Nolan, who appeared in a television ad supporting Question 2, said that while he does not "condone marijuana use," he believes it should not be a criminal offense.Nolan said 7,500 new criminal records are created each year in Massachusetts for those charged with marijuana possession and that those records can have serious consequences, particularly for students receiving financial aid or looking for employment.Students with criminal marijuana offenses on their record could be denied federal financial aid, Nolan said.Critics of decriminalization point to the fact that Massachusetts state law already requires judges to seal the records of first-time marijuana possession offenders after six months if they do not commit another criminal offense. However, said Nolan, these records are not expunged. He said that, from a police perspective, a sealed record gives the impression that a person has "something to hide."Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley joined with all 11 of Massachusetts's district attorneys to oppose the bill, citing public safety concerns. In an Oct. 31 press release, Coakley said the "decriminalization of marijuana will send a message to children and young adults that it is okay to use and abuse illegal substances."Massachusetts students, however, were less convinced that the law would have a significant impact on campus communities."I haven't seen any opposition (to Question 2) at all, really," said Jonathan Sussman, co-president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Brandeis University. "I've pretty much seen support across the board for it. Even my Republican friends and a few professors."Sussman said the small and "relatively young" SSDP chapter at Brandeis was not heavily involved in supporting the passage of Question 2. Last year, he said, they collected some signatures for petitions in support of the bill and signed up new voters."We didn't encounter much direct opposition," he said, "but we did encounter a lot of apathy."Sussman said he did not expect the new law itself to affect Brandeis students in a major way. But in response to what he calls an "arbitrary" history of enforcing substance use policies at Brandeis, his group is drafting a resolution that would "officially declare drugs the lowest priority" for campus law enforcement. He said they plan to have a proposal before the Brandeis Student Union Senate by next week.Sussman said that with the recent passage of Question 2, "people are becoming more aware that drug policy reform is something we can do in college."Morris, the leader of the NORML chapter at Suffolk, said that the Saturday before the election his group held a small demonstration in the Boston Commons in support of Question 2. He said passers-by expressed little opposition to the bill.Morris said that although students were surprised by the passage of the bill, he did not expect the law to change the extent of marijuana use in the state. "I think it's just going to be a relax for responsible marijuana users," he said. "A nice breath of air, like a nice sigh."Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the author of several books on positive uses of marijuana, said he was "delighted" that Question 2 had passed.Grinspoon said he believes marijuana's medical uses will bring about its legalization during the lifetime of today's college student, and that Question 2 is a step in that direction."People are going to have an experience seeing a friend or loved one using this substance and not going wacky," making them more comfortable about supporting legalization, Grinspoon said.Although he supported Question 2, Grinspoon said he believed marijuana should be totally decriminalized and regulated in much the same manner that alcohol is. "People have to use it responsibly," said Grinspoon. "You don't drink and drive, you don't smoke and drive."Question 2 must still be approved by the Massachusetts state legislature, which has 30 days to change or even prevent it from going into effect. Morris said his group is writing letters to political officials and plans to hold more small rallies to ensure the measure becomes law."The fight isn't over yet," he said.Source: Brown Daily Herald, The (Brown, RI Edu)Author: Emma BerryPublished: November 12, 2008Copyright: 2008 The Brown Daily HeraldContact: letters browndailyherald.comWebsite: Articles:Between The Lines: The Pot Test Fear MJ Law Will Lead To Increased Use Law Advocates Seek Wider Change 
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Comment #14 posted by ekim on November 14, 2008 at 08:35:52 PT
President Bush discontinued the program in 1992 1982, Rosenfeld became the second person eligible for the "compassionate use" program, which began four years earlier as a result of a lawsuitGlaucoma sufferer Robert Randall had sued the U.S. government after he was arrested for using marijuana. A judge ruled Randall needed it for medical reasons. The government agreed to set up the program, run by the Food and Drug Administration. The marijuana is grown on a farm at the University of Mississippi in OxfordThe first President Bush discontinued the program in 1992 after Randall tried to help scores of AIDS patients become eligible, but he grandfathered in the 13 patients who were already enrolled. Several, including Randall, have since died.
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Comment #13 posted by afterburner on November 13, 2008 at 23:04:00 PT
And G.H.W. Bush was also a former CIA Director
IMO, when G.H.W. Bush became president, the secret government became the government. Ditto for Putin, former KGB agent who became Russian President and later Prime Minister. The secret government became the government. 
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Comment #12 posted by runruff on November 13, 2008 at 12:10:38 PT
The Bush bane!
I believe that G.H.W.Bush is one of the evil insiders in Washington. He wasn't picked by Reagan. Reagan didn't even know him. Neither did the rest of the country. He was meant to enter on Ronnie's coat tails. It was his mission to crank up the WOD, get congress to introduce new more stringent laws to include more prison time. [Mandatory minimums] He brought the National Guard and helicopters into the game. He went to congress and got more than 30 billion dollars to invest into his WOD. All the while he sat on the board of directors with Dan Quail's father at Eli Lilly Co.You can find more on his drug dealing on the Internet than you will have time to read.
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Comment #11 posted by rchandar on November 12, 2008 at 21:32:28 PT:
We Other "Children of Ronnie"
The point about Carter and his proposed legislation has some relevance. He was, of course, the last US President to try and get this done in any shape or form......we are all, in some shape or other, children of Ronnie Reagan. It was during Reagan's Presidency that the "harmfulness" of drugs became immutable social law. Classical prohibitionist ideology is largely attributable to him, especially the following notions:--drugs are dangerous
--drugs kill children, our most precious resource.
--drug dealers are evil men who want to kill you
--the drug problem is going out of control, and is invading your neighborhood
--only continued police vigilance, citizen alertness, and greater suspicion of anyone who is somehow "different" will help us "take back our communities"
--marijuana is a dangerous drug, it can kill you. it leads to suicide.
--marijuana is a stepping stone, a gateway drug that leads to crack cocaine use, speed use, LSD use.
--drugs destroy families.
--all drug use is "drug addiction." Even once
--once a criminal, always a criminal
--to quit drugs, you must admit that you "have a problem."There are a lot of things that seem to come to mind when I think about this stuff. The first: unfortunately, our culture, our popular music, our television, repeatedly tells me that the war is lost. Most drug users don't even question whether their usage is bad: it's bad, it should be illegal. The absolute cynicism of our media tell me that people are frustrated with the fact that they couldn't legalize MJ. And they gave up, retreated to a position of intelligent and comprehensive defensiveness of their "criminal" status. I think that's good in a way, but I feel sad that there is no real chance of a Bob Marley becoming popular for some time. A lot of young people believe that it MUST be this way: it's almost like tradition. It's illegal, right? It's always BEEN illegal. So it has to be that way, doesn't it? That will actually be hard for a lot of us to imagine--we have no examples of a truly "legalized" system--Holland comes close, but even there organized crime controls most of the production and market. Still it's something that rankles at times.--rehabilitation--and getting off drugs--is equated with religious realization of self. And this, my friends, is pure BS. You don't have to believe in God to be sober. Your drug use is not a "sin"--though the Vatican and some Islamic countries have added it as a sin. Come on, a sin? Really? But to stress the obvious--Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, lots of people--have gone sober without any religious training or experience. The myth is that we're all degenerates who need a moral awakening--that's grossly unfair since 97 million Americans have smoked pot. To condemn that many people is wrong--to cement religious values as the test of humanity is even more unfair.Drugs become an unquestioned litmus test of ethics and character. It is impossible, for example, for a truly ethical human being to have ever "learned" anything from their use of drugs other than that they were a scandalous monster who deserved to go to Hell. And it was during Reagan's Presidency that all this became immutable social law. Something which could never be challenged, questioned, without the majority reiterating the fundamental principle.What I worry about is that most people that use drugs are hardly vicious criminals or lost psychos. They're usually normal enough to function relatively well--keep a job, go through relationships, behave right when it is demanded. What worries me is that we all seem to think that it has to be this way.By the way, did you know that the Netherlands just banned magic mushrooms? It's going to be contested, but there's your FYI...Peace.--rchandar
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Comment #10 posted by ekim on November 12, 2008 at 18:42:36 PT
so how much are we talken the cost of 7,500 cases
Nolan said 7,500 new criminal records are created each year in Massachusetts for those charged with marijuana possessionthe good news is that if the bait is taken by the DA to the Gov it will go 
 all the way back in time to the mid 70s in a little college town called Ann Arbor when the true savings in blood and treasure are tallyed more will call for change.
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Comment #9 posted by Sam Adams on November 12, 2008 at 15:11:50 PT
alan capecodchronicle.comtwood
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Comment #8 posted by Sam Adams on November 12, 2008 at 15:06:14 PT
Buyer's Remorse
The only thing voters have "remorse" about is this a-hole DA. What a lying, worthless person. Don't these guys have to run for office? Can't wait till their campaign season comes around.Government's got WAY too much power today. Nobody should be around to run around spewing this kind of hateful lying. He is totall insulated from any kind of blowback from the voters - mainly becuase of this rag of a newspaper prints his vile garbage.Hey....NICE toupee!
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Comment #7 posted by HempWorld on November 12, 2008 at 13:24:42 PT
Thanks observer, I always liked your comments and
musemon (museman) also.Dear US citizens it's like this:When police make laws, you live in a police state.When the people make laws you live in a democracy. Go figure! Vioxx anyone! (Vioxx killed in excess of 130,000 Americans and has now been taken off the market)
Legalize All Drugs!
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Comment #6 posted by HempWorld on November 12, 2008 at 13:17:44 PT
"Although the law has yet to be submitted to the
state legislature for review - where it could still be amended or repealed ... etc ... bla bla bla bull$hit ..."Yeah right, because the state legislature does not abide by democratic principles; HOW DARE THEY EVEN CONSIDER REPEALING A LAW THAT WAS ADOPTED THROUGH THE VOTING PROCESS.When 'the public' wants something, we, the legislature, are still there to make sure it is ok by us. Because WE, are your rulers and masters and if you don't listen to us, we will jail you and make your life miserable because WE RULE! F you! Never mind, real democracy we only apply this when it suits us!
On a mission from God!
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Comment #5 posted by observer on November 12, 2008 at 13:12:51 PT
2Ki4:41:No Harm in the Pot, Despite Officials
There is a dangerous disconnect between public perception and reality when it comes to marijuana, he said. “On one hand, there’s this perception that’s been around since I was a kid that marijuana is a harmless drug,” he said. ">, not even water, air, gravity, etc. is without conceivable harm, so of course the prosecutor's self-serving rhetorical assertion is absurd on the face of it. On the other hand, asserting that if adults are simply punished less for a little pot, this will be poisoning our youth, etc. is clearly overblown. ''... And there was no harm in the pot.'' (2Kings 4:41, KJV)Can I can an amen on that? Even in the Bible belt? And did you ever notice how new laws that give police/government more power are implemented at lightspeed, smoothly, with the efficiency of Himmler, whereas somehow police and government officials just can't seem to understand how to implement laws that give the people back some sliver of their traditional freedoms (over their own adult bodies, even)? So notice the difference: fast, efficient implementation of repressive police-state laws; slow-foot dragging ignorance of the law, when it comes to getting our freedoms back. Standard operating procedure, for the police state. 
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Comment #4 posted by Mike on November 12, 2008 at 12:31:43 PT
MA prosecutors and cops to lobby governor against signing marijuana referendum into law. "Though the ballot initiative won voters’ approval, the fight against it will continue."
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on November 12, 2008 at 11:38:10 PT
I remember too. I had so much hope and then the big cocaine problem hit. I remember saying to myself it's over now and will be for many years.
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Comment #2 posted by observer on November 12, 2008 at 11:21:08 PT
I Remember 1978
It seemed like legalization was right around the corner, 1978. States were passing decrim. and High Times magazine was sold everywhere. Why, even the President of the United States, a year earlier, had told the nation that,"Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana." (President Jimmy Carter, Message to Congress, 1977)Yeah, surely, we reasoned, surely marijuana would be legal as beer. It only made sense. That was in 1978, I remember. Never underestimate the ability of the evil empire to strike back. So-called "conservatives" (Tories, Republicans, etc.) are power-loving demagogues, and as demagogues, they need scapegoats. Pot smokers (like witches or Jews or gypsies) fit the bill perfectly. 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on November 12, 2008 at 09:34:40 PT
What An Exciting Time
It's almost hard for me to believe after all these years (almost 8 years) that now we might stand a chance at some form of marijuana reform.
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