The Grass is Always Greener

The Grass is Always Greener
Posted by CN Staff on November 18, 2008 at 09:46:06 PT
By Kerianne Okie
Source: Tufts Daily
Massachusetts -- Barack Obama’s Election Day victory made his message of change a reality. But the widespread media attention surrounding his triumph overshadowed some of the other results on Nov. 4. As it turned out, the citizens of Massachusetts, and by default Tufts students, received an extra dose of change — Question 2, which proposed decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, was passed by a solid majority of the vote.
The question’s passage replaces criminal penalties for possessing under an ounce of marijuana with a $100 dollar fine and eradicates the collection of Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reports for minor infractions. This represents a significant divergence from the previous law, under which people charged with marijuana possession faced criminal penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.In the days after the election, students reflected upon whether the decriminalization of marijuana would actually have any real effect on their smoking habits and lives at Tufts.Many students are skeptical about whether this change, though drastic, will make much of a difference for them.Junior Alice Brown* feels that the decriminalization of marijuana will not greatly alter the prevalence of smoking at Tufts.“I think we live in a bubble, and I think people who just smoke occasionally wouldn’t necessarily feel paranoid about the law in the first place on the Tufts campus,” she said.Brown added that although the penalties for possession of under an ounce are less severe, students must remember that repercussions still do exist.“I think people have a misconception about what decriminalization means — it doesn’t mean it’s legal, but some people kind of think that’s what’s happened,” Brown said. “I think that [the new law] will probably change the casualness with which people actually carry around their marijuana.”Senior Harold Knussman,* who smokes marijuana every day, agreed that Question 2 will not have a serious impact at Tufts.“The truth is people are going to smoke, because the chances of getting caught and of there being risk are so narrow,” Knussman said.He feels that the decriminalization of marijuana is not significant for affluent college students, but that it is a huge victory for marginalized youth.“Generally, it happens that students who are arrested and have the money to actually fight it will never get a criminal record. They may have to go to rehab … but for most kids, they’d be able to throw enough money,” he said. “It’s actually the poor kids — generally African Americans and Hispanics — that wind up getting criminal records for possession of marijuana under an ounce, and they’re the real ones that are going to win from this.”Some students, though, feel that Question 2 will change the frequency with which Jumbos decide to smoke.Sophomore Emily Boone,* who smokes about once every two weeks, feels that she might do so more frequently if more marijuana is available on campus.“If anything, [the amount I smoke] will increase … because I feel like my friends who already buy pot will have more of it or will feel comfortable using it more and maybe being more open with it,” she said.Sophomore Henry Green,* a daily smoker, believes that Tufts students’ smoking habits will amplify since they will be less afraid of the potential consequences.“I definitely think [smoking] will [increase] because now there really isn’t any [serious consequence],” Green said. “I mean, $100 is a pretty big deal, but it’s so much less severe than the potential of having to go to prison or having to do a ridiculous sentence or a ridiculous punishment for something that’s so small.”Green believes that a lighter punishment may change people’s perceptions about marijuana use, causing more people to smoke. “I’m sure that a lot of people are going to feel more comfortable with it, and more people will be willing to try it now that the legal issues aren’t really a problem anymore.”Freshman Elizabeth Birch,* who has only used marijuana twice, said she will smoke more comfortably — but probably not more regularly.“I think I’ll be less nervous about getting caught, so I’ll be more relaxed about it. I won’t worry, ‘Oh, am I going to get caught? What are the consequences going to be?’” she said. “I think I’ll probably be able to enjoy it more without worrying about, ‘Oh, is someone going to smell it? Are police going to come?’ — that sort of thing.”Boone said that less fearful attitudes toward marijuana may beget more smoking.“I definitely think people will view pot more as not as dangerous of a substance — not in relation to health, but more in relation to if you get caught, how bad it is,” she said. “The law makes pot seem less dangerous in regards to your record.”The 65 percent support that the referendum gathered may mirror a change in attitudes toward marijuana, according to Green.“I think the fact that it got passed is kind of a reflection of how people’s views of marijuana have changed within the past years,” he said. “I’m sure it’ll affect the way a lot of people think, realizing that it’s not that huge of a legal issue anymore.”* Names have been changed because students requested anonymity.Complete Title: The Grass is Always Greener: Jumbos React To The Decriminalization of Marijuana in Mass.Source: Tufts Daily (MA Edu)Author: Kerianne OkiePublished: November 18, 2008Copyright: 2008 Tufts DailyContact: letters tuftsdaily.comWebsite: Articles:Police Groups Say No Point in MJ Enforcement The 'War on Drugs' Behind Bars
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