Marijuana Law Comes With Challenges 

Marijuana Law Comes With Challenges 
Posted by CN Staff on December 18, 2008 at 17:51:22 PT
By Abby Goodnough
Source: New York Times
Boston, MA -- Last month, voters approved a statewide measure decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Now, wary authorities say, comes the hard part. They are scrambling to set up a new system of civil penalties before Jan. 2, when the change becomes law. From then on, anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will owe a $100 civil fine instead of ending up with an arrest record and possibly facing jail time.It sounds simple, but David Capeless, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said the new policy presented a thicket of questions and complications.
One of the most basic, Mr. Capeless said, is who will collect the fines and enforce other provisions of the law. For example, violators under 18 will be required to attend a drug awareness class within a year, but it is unclear who will make sure that they do so. The fine increases to $1,000 for those who skip the class. A complicating factor, said Mr. Capeless, the district attorney in Berkshire County, is that state law bans the police from demanding identification for civil infractions.“Not only do you not have to identify yourself,” he said, “but it would appear from a strict reading that people can get a citation, walk away, never pay a fine and have no repercussion.”Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, says he anticipates that many violators will lie about their identities. “You can tell us that you’re Mickey Mouse of One Disneyland Way,” Mr. Sampson said, “and we have to assume that’s true.” The authorities, he said, will also have to be sure that the substance they hand out citations for is marijuana, which will involve sending it to the State Police crime laboratory. “You’re going to appeal it and go to the clerk’s hearing,” Mr. Sampson said, “and if we don’t have an analysis from the drug lab, the clerk is going to throw the case out.”Mr. Sampson predicted that the law would result in de facto legalization of marijuana because it would prove too difficult to enforce. “I would argue that the proponents knew these complications right from the beginning,” he said. About 65 percent of state voters supported the decriminalization measure, which was promoted by a group that spent more than $1.5 million on the effort. The group, the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said that in addition to ensuring that people caught with marijuana no longer have a criminal record, the change would save about $29.5 million a year that it estimates law enforcement currently spends to enforce existing drug laws. A spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, which supports the drug’s legalization and created the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy to get the ballot question passed here, said that judging from the experience of other states with civil penalties for marijuana possession, Massachusetts officials were exaggerating the challenges.“I can’t help but think that the real difficulty in implementing it,” said the spokesman, Dan Bernath, “is they don’t want to do it.”Eleven states have decriminalized first-time possession of marijuana, though in most it is technically a misdemeanor instead of a civil offense.In Nebraska, where possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is punishable by a $300 civil fine, the process has worked smoothly for three decades, said Michael Behm, executive director of the Nebraska Crime Commission. In New York, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a noncriminal violation but is still processed through the criminal system, said Robert M. Carney, the district attorney in Schenectady County.“They are brought down to the police station so their identity is established,” Mr. Carney said of violators, “but they are not fingerprinted because it’s not an arrest.”In Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Public Safety is working with state and local law enforcement and court officials to determine how to apply the changes. Mr. Capeless said education officials were also in on the discussions because it was unclear whether public schools and universities could forbid marijuana possession under the new law. A spokesman for the public safety office said its legal counsel was considering “a lot of questions” as the deadline drew near. But the spokesman, Terrel Harris, would not elaborate.“We are just trying to make sure we have all the answers,” Mr. Harris said. Mr. Capeless said that in particular the department needed to address a clause in the new law that said neither the state nor its “political subdivisions or their respective agencies” could impose “any form of penalty, sanction or disqualification” on anyone found with an ounce or less of marijuana. “It appears to say that you get a $100 fine and they can’t do anything else to you,” he said. “Can a police officer caught with marijuana several times get to keep his job and not be disciplined in any fashion? Can public high schools punish kids for smoking cigarettes but not for having pot?”Mr. Bernath agreed that the law was “not completely clear” on how to handle such situations, but predicted that they would be rare.“I think the resistance has to do with dealing with something new,” he said. “We’re pretty confident that once this gets going and the newness of it wears off, a lot of the apprehension will go away.” A version of this article appeared in print on December 18, 2008, on page A29 of the New York edition. Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Abby GoodnoughPublished: December 18, 2008 - Page A29 Copyright: 2008 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Articles:Marijuana Won’t Be Decriminalized Until January 2 Landslide Opens Drug Policy Debate
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Comment #25 posted by John Tyler on December 20, 2008 at 08:53:08 PT
I agree. The conversation is over. It is time to take this multibillion-dollar industry to full legalization. The war on cannabis is a luxury the country can not afford.
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Comment #24 posted by afterburner on December 19, 2008 at 23:07:42 PT
HempWorld #16 - They knew it all along
So, a Marihuana Tax Act was introduced and presently enacted as Federal law. And the foundation was thus laid for a racket that should quite eclipse even the billion-dollar illicit drug industry that the Harrison Act (as misinterpreted) developed and fostered. For the new drug has qualities that put it in a class by itself. For example: Marijuana, despite its high-sounding name, is merely a product of the familiar hemp plant - an agricultural product to which (according to statements made before the Congressional committee) upward of 10,000 acres of land in the United States are devoted. . . . Racketeers who developed a billion-dollar illicit drug-industry, using opium that had to be smuggled into the country, should have no difficulty at all in developing a five-billion-dollar racket with marihuana - provided only that the press can be induced to stimulate curiosity by giving the drug publicity. 
-- Doctor Henry Smith Williams, "Drug Addicts are Human Beings," 1938 
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Comment #23 posted by The GCW on December 19, 2008 at 21:44:11 PT
At the bottom:Marijuana: It’s Time for a ConversationAre they kidding? ...a conversation?The conversation is over. Done.It's time to get real.Cannabis prohibitionists should be treated like vampires.
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Comment #22 posted by OverwhelmSam on December 19, 2008 at 21:14:15 PT
Police Have Abused Their Authority
And should therefore be stripped of their authoirty to arrest an adult for using marijuana.Check out the comments about H.R. 5843 The Act to Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana for Responsible Adults
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Comment #21 posted by The GCW on December 19, 2008 at 20:04:19 PT
Cheech & Chong on the cover: Boulder Weekly
STILL SMOKIN'We use suppositories now,” Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong chime simultaneously when asked if they still smoke marijuana.
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Comment #20 posted by HempWorld on December 19, 2008 at 19:33:10 PT
 The GCW
Good one!
On a mission from God!
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Comment #19 posted by The GCW on December 19, 2008 at 19:19:19 PT
"The US gov is trillions in debt."The persecution of cannabis is so bad it even effects hemp.Ironically perhaps America's largest debt is with China which allows it's communist farmers to grow hemp-while free American farmers are prohibited from growing hemp.I wonder if China has lobbyists helping to prohibit Americans from growing hemp so they might profit?
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Comment #18 posted by goneposthole on December 19, 2008 at 18:32:04 PT
It's prohibition
California is 18.5 billion dollars in debt. If they were to legalize cannabis, they would have a world wide market cinched and they could balance their budget with ease.If fact, the entire country would benefit from legal cannabis.The US gov is trillions in debt. The stock market is losing trillions. Corruption and shady investment schemes such as Bernie Madoff's tricks are the norm.The sanity of the system is in question. Certainly, the downward spiral has begun.It is one massive boycott of the economy by hard working Americans. They have had enough.Cannabis is the least of the worries in America. In fact, it must be helping a whole lot of people this evening. Their money woes can be forgotten with a little bit of cannabis.If capitalism is working at all in America, it is in the cannabis industry. Plenty of product and plenty of demand. About the only industry in America that is making a profit.The US gov should listen. It is not a lesson too late to learn.Merry Christmas
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Comment #17 posted by the GCW on December 19, 2008 at 18:20:48 PT
police union cried 
US IL: Budget Woes Kill Elgin's DARE ProgramThe failed Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE program is about to go down and guess Who's in tears, speaking out???In early November, the police union cried foul over this and other reassignmentsPubdate: Thu, 18 Dec 2008 
Source: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) or not DARE works it provides union dues.
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Comment #16 posted by HempWorld on December 19, 2008 at 17:21:11 PT
Doomed to Repeat History?
(sorry FoM I hope it's ok to post this, I believe it is a great article HW)Doomed to Repeat History?
Author Jerry Paradis © 2008 North Shore News, Dec. 17th 2008.The Drowsy Chaperone, that blowsy, buoyant, infectious smash hit at the Playhouse, is fuelled partly by the running joke of alcohol prohibition. It's set in 1928 and booze is why the Chaperone is always drowsy. The gathered wedding party is obviously indifferent to the law. The hostess and her butler/gofer discuss code words for drinks. Pretty much the way everyone today deals with marijuana: with a wink and a nudge. Watching the show brought to mind the fact that Prohibition was repealed 75 years ago this month. That decision was made for many reasons, but all were circumscribed by the simple fact that the United States was broke. It was no longer possible to suffer the massive drain on the public purse caused by a misbegotten adventure in moral engineering. From 1920 to 1933, American federal spending on policing went from $2.2 million to $12 million; and the federal prison population rose from 3,000 inmates to 12,000. Forget the puny numbers compared to today's bailout amounts and the population of today's prisons: those figures represent an increase of 450 per cent and 300 per cent, respectively. It is doubtful that Prohibition would have been continued in the face of those costs even if it were successful. But it turned out it wasn't. Consumption dropped for the first two years; but by 1933 it was 11 per cent higher than it had been in 1919. The roaring '20s, apart from its gang wars, saw a marked increase in diseases associated with alcohol consumption, especially bathtub gin and other home brews. In other words, efforts to get around the law brought disease, death, corruption, violence and a general disrespect for the law in general. Sound familiar? In 1973, a couple of years after Richard Nixon declared his war on drugs, the budget for the Drug Enforcement Agency ( DEA ) was $75 million. In 2001, it was $1.2 billion, a staggering 1,500 per cent growth in less than 30 years. 
Similarly, the total U.S. federal prison population in 1970 was 22,038. By 2001 that had grown to 137,536 inmates, a 524 per cent jump - -- and 55 per cent were in there for drugs. In fact, by 1994, there were as many drug offenders in American prisons as there had been total prisoners in 1970. We in Canada have locked up our fair share, but certainly less than our southern neighbours because we have been less obsessed by the notion that more and longer prison terms will have an impact on illegal drug use and abuse. That may be only for the time being, however, since the Harper government appears determined to install "get tough" measures, like mandatory minimums, that have been tried in the United States and are now being abandoned there as counterproductive and futile. On the other hand, we can hope that the economic crunch will delay those plans. The cost of drug prohibition here and in the United States is a "known known", as Donald Rumsfeld once famously said. Cumulatively, from 1973 to 2006 our American neighbours spent $1 trillion on it. Recently, Harvard economics professor Jeffrey Miron ( a libertarian, by the way, so he should find an ally in that other economist, Stephen Harper ) calculated that the United States presently spends $76.8 billion annually on drug prohibition. In this country the federal government, the provinces and the territories all keep separate track of police, prosecution, court and corrections costs within their jurisdiction. A compilation of those figures attributable only to illegal drugs in 2002 totaled $2,336,530,000. 
That's right. This minor democracy of barely 30 million people managed to go through almost two-and-a-half billion dollars in just one year pursuing the unattainable. 
Meanwhile, the Lower Mainland and most Canadian metropolitan areas and small cities ( Prince George, for example ) are witnessing persistent gang violence by those who want to gain or maintain status in the incredibly lucrative drug market. Al Capone has become the mythical figurehead for the equivalent mayhem of the '20s. But the St. Valentine's Day massacre of 1929 was no different from the many execution-style murders across the country today. 
In the teeth of a recession it would probably not be worth the cost even if prohibition had some effect on drug use and abuse; but, as it turns out, it has had even less impact than the first prohibition. We have thrown billions at an illusory "problem" and drug consumption has risen far more dramatically than alcohol consumption did from 1922 to 1933. In Canada, between 1994 and 2004, self-report of regular use of marijuana and cocaine rose 100 per cent and 300 per cent, respectively. In the United States the numbers are just as discouraging for the drug warriors. Indeed, they point to the possibility that prohibition actually fosters drug use. In the Netherlands, with its hands-off policy on pot consumption, 22 per cent report that they have tried marijuana at some point in their lifetime. The U.S. figure is 46 per cent, in spite of the country's Draconian penal laws. The United States was prodded by the Depression to abandon a foolish and counterproductive policy. When it did, there was no sudden explosion of alcoholism; but there was a significant reduction in related disease and death and an almost instantaneous demise of the destructive criminal organizations the policy had generated. Better still, states garnered huge amounts of revenue from the taxation of alcohol. There is no reason to expect any different result if our present economic crisis were to lead to abandonment of drug prohibition. As happened with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, we can save billions of dollars, advance the health and well-being of thousands of Canadians, and rid ourselves of a significant amount of criminal activity. Maybe our leaders can be just functional enough to take that great leap. Please also read: Long Term Exposure To Cannabis
Ed Note: The most important thing that I got out of this article is the explanation for the worlds' highest drug consumption rate in the USA; this country is No 1 and we now know that this is due to prohibition. 
Basically, there is a correlation and a dynamic relationship between the effort (money) you spend on prohibition of a certain drug. When you spend more effort or money to prohibit a drug; then, there will be a rise in use of that drug. 
Every effort to reduce a certain drug will be negated by the fact that every mentions of that drug is free advertising. This message is then louder then any other message conveyed to the public.
Meanwhile, cigarettes are completely legal you can light up anywhere even when close to little children and cigarettes kill in excess of 38,000 Americans every year from passive smoke inhalation ( and believe me 38,000 is an awful lot of dead bodies from people who did not even enjoy the habit ...) Yet marijuana has killed no-one (because its toxicity is zero) and studies have shown that in a population with marijuana smokers, these are the same people who have a lower incidence of cancer than non-smokers overall, including lung cancer.
On a mission from God!
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Comment #15 posted by charmed quark on December 19, 2008 at 17:15:37 PT
Listen toNJ med marijana testimony to the Dec. 15 audio. There are a couple of bills voted on first before the medical marijuana testimony begins.The critics of the bill testified as a group and are near the end of the testimony.The senators' statements and votes at the end are quite interesting and powerful. Who would have thought politicians would say these things?. This starts at time 2:33:00 The first senator is responding mostly to the testimony of the critics of the bill. He asks why we should trust the FDA after the lack of science at the Federal level for the last 8 years. The Republican senator's statement later on is the most moving.
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Comment #14 posted by charmed quark on December 19, 2008 at 16:09:35 PT
Humbolt Cannabis Fairy progress is being made elsewhere in medical cannabis, it's easy to forget that things have been regressing on the left coast.Nice graphic of the fairy...
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on December 19, 2008 at 15:24:53 PT
Bill Seeks To Ease Prison Crowding 
By Associated Press December 18, 2008Columbus -- Ohio lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Ted Strickland that would ease the state's crowded prisons by giving judges lighter sentence options for nonviolent drug offenders and other low-level felons. The proposal passed the Senate 28-3 late Wednesday and later in the evening received its final sign-off from the House. It gives judges broader discretion in sentencing third-, fourth- and fifth-degree felons to community-based facilities instead of prison, particularly those with drug addictions. The legislation comes as Ohio and other states are contending with prison crowding and severe budget deficits. The U.S. prison population is the largest in the world, largely due to tougher sentences states have imposed in recent years on drug offenders, child molesters, drunk drivers, sexual predators and other groups. Copyright: 2008 The Akron Beacon Journal
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Comment #12 posted by OverwhelmSam on December 19, 2008 at 10:53:06 PT
How About Equal Treatment Under The Law
Judicial Favoritism - If they want to give their family a break, they should give everyone a break under the law. They do this for politicians and police too:No Jail Time for Judge's Son who Pleaded Guilty to Marijuana The Grand Rapids Press 
Thursday December 18, 2008, 9:30 PMGRAND RAPIDS -- The son of a Grand Rapids District Court judge will spend no time behind bars and could have his record wiped clean after pleading guilty to attempted possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.Bradford Logan, 20, was in Kent County Circuit Court Thursday where he told Judge Mark Trusock that his actions embarrassed himself, his family and the community.
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Comment #11 posted by runruff on December 19, 2008 at 07:14:57 PT
You will have tomorrow but,
"If you accept the statis quo nothing will change!"-Runruff
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Comment #10 posted by runruff on December 19, 2008 at 07:11:53 PT
run, run ruff
People who behave seldom change history!
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Comment #9 posted by runruff on December 19, 2008 at 07:10:13 PT
That reminds me!
[Q] What do you call a line of rabbits walking backwards?[A] A receding hare line.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on December 19, 2008 at 06:56:11 PT
Marijuana Advocate Acquitted
December 19, 2008URL:
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Comment #7 posted by Sam Adams on December 19, 2008 at 06:44:13 PT
more news
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on December 19, 2008 at 06:33:52 PT
News Article From The Huffington Post
Why Harm Reduction Makes Sense: These Three Things I Know are TrueStanton PeeleDecember 18, 2008URL:
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Comment #5 posted by ezrydn on December 19, 2008 at 06:13:40 PT
Hand Wringing and Teeth Knashing
"Who" is legal isn't their responsibility. It's the state's. They only have to follow state edicts. No one is tasking them with "collection." I doubt that's even come up. They seem to be worrying about everyone else's job and not their own.And, basically, it comes down to this for the police. If you can't figure out how to follow the rules of the state, as they pertain to law enforcement, LEAVE! Go into another profession where the rules are easier to understand.EZ
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Comment #4 posted by LaGuardia on December 18, 2008 at 20:18:11 PT
As Per Usual, The Cop Does Not Know The Law
I hate to give the po-po any ideas here, but what the head of the police union said about the lab analysis is likely true for a criminal case but not a civil case. The DAs will figure that out even if they are trying to pose the media with their smoke in mirrors sob stories right now.Since pot possession is now a civil penalty in Mass., a lower burden of proof likely applies. Most courts would require only that the officer issuing the citation be able to reasonably identify the substance as marijuana by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., show that it is more likely pot than not, i.e. more than 50% of the evidence supporting that the substance in question is marijuana (which is much, much lower than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard applicable to criminal cases that generally requires lab analysis). The magic words would likely be something along the lines of: "I was able to identify the substance as marijuana based upon my training in narcotics detection and experience as a police officer dealing with marijuana offenses." In addition, since most people do not walk around with basil or parsley in Ziploc bags, having herbs in a baggy alone is likely enough for most judges in a civil case. On the other hand, if it were in a jar labeled "basil" . . . whole different ball game.Massachusetts might not even be constitutionally required to have an appeals process in place for a $100 fine anyway, because it might not be cost-efficient; there is an influential case from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (Easterbrook, J.) involving $100 parking tickets in Chicago where the court ruled that there was no constitutional right to a hearing to contest the parking tickets because the parking fine was only $100, and therefore a hearing was not cost efficient unless a high percentage of challengers were to win (and the court assumed that only 2% of challengers would win). Change the numbers and the result would be different; maybe you have a constitutional right to a hearing if 10% of challengers would likely prevail. Such is the nature of administrative law, but it is a much better area of law to be in than criminal law for everyone involved (cops included), IMO, and most jurisdictions allow you a hearing to challenge tickets anyway, even if it is not a constitutional right to one, and Mass. is in the 1st Circuit anyway.That said, going even to that degree of trouble is probably not worth the cops' time for their $100. Like The GCW (a/k/a Mickey) wrote, leave people alone, go find some real criminals. Try looking at the members of the Massachusetts General Court (i.e. the legislature) to start. I hear that they require their bribes to be in small bills ($20s) so that it's easier to launder. Thank God that the voters could settle this issue directly; go democracy.
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Comment #3 posted by OverwhelmSam on December 18, 2008 at 20:00:11 PT
Keep It Simple Stupid!
That is all...
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Comment #2 posted by afterburner on December 18, 2008 at 19:44:32 PT
Hilarious! LOL!
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on December 18, 2008 at 18:36:21 PT
Dear Porky Pig, Daffy Duck & Wile E. Coyote
Poor cops, robbers and DA's....presented a thicket of questions and complications......who will collect the fines...The authorities, he said, will also have to be sure that the substance they hand out citations for is marijuana, which will involve sending it to the State Police crime laboratory. (this is too good)“and if we don’t have an analysis from the drug lab the clerk is going to throw the case out.” (shucks, and if they have the analysis, they'll get their hundred [imagine how huge I'm laughing right now])
 Duuudes, gather around, wipe Your tears and listen up.Leave  people  alone. You aren't going to profit any longer by persecuting cannabis users.From now on it is going to be very expensive for You to bully cannabis users en-Mass.Go find some real criminals to mess with.Signed,Mickey Mouse 
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