Lawmen Decry New Mass. Law 

Lawmen Decry New Mass. Law 
Posted by CN Staff on December 31, 2008 at 20:44:02 PT
By Dan Ring
Source: Republican
Boston, MA -- Law enforcement officials say there are many loopholes, unintended consequences and other problems in the new law that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The law replaces criminal penalties for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana with a civil fine of $100, about the same as getting a traffic ticket. Sixty-five percent of Massachusetts' voters approved the ballot law on Nov. 4, and it takes effect on Jan. 2.
Law enforcement officials still have many doubts about the law. Among the concerns are that some people will not be required to identify themselves if stopped for marijuana, that police officers cannot be disciplined for possessing an ounce of less of marijuana, and that state laboratories which test narcotics for criminal cases will no longer test small amounts of marijuana seized in a civil matter. In addition, guidelines issued by the state for the law's enforcement say possession of an ounce or less of THC - the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, hashish or hash oil - may now be decriminalized as well. "The law is very confusing," said Holyoke Police Chief Anthony R. Scott this week. "The law presents a lot of problems for law enforcement." Street dealers now will probably carry less than an ounce to elude arrest, he predicted. Under the new law, he said, police will no longer be able to arrest people for possessing an ounce or less and use them for information to go after dealers. Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless, who is president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said the sponsors of the law hoodwinked the public. "It's a disaster, and it was unfortunately a hoax perpetrated on the public," he said. One loophole in the new law is that police have no authority to ask an offender for identification, said Capeless. There is a specific law which says residents must carry identification if they are driving, but there is no similar provision in the marijuana law, he said. Jack A. Cole, the executive director of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a former 26-year member of the New Jersey State Police, said the new law should not be difficult to enforce. Police know how to issue citations, he said. "There shouldn't be any trouble at all with implementation," Cole said. "It's a very simple thing to do." Terrel W. Harris of the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said his agency is moving forward to put the law into effect. Guidelines for law enforcement and others were to be in the hands of all police agencies this week. All law enforcement officers with civil enforcement powers - including campus officers - have the authority to issue the new $100 tickets, under the guidelines. According to the ballot law, people under 18 must complete a drug-awareness program, including 10 hours of community service, within one year of being cited for possessing an ounce of less of marijuana. If the offender fails to complete the program, the fine could jump to $1,000 and parents could be liable. The Committee for a Sensible Marijuana Policy spent about $1.5 million to win approval of Question 2. George Soros, a liberal hedge-fund manager, donated $400,000 toward the effort. Supporters argued that approval of the law would mean that people who possess small amounts of marijuana would no longer be weighed down with criminal records. Gov. Deval L. Patrick, the district attorneys' group, chiefs of police, and county sheriffs all opposed the question. Opponents said it would increase teenage drug use, be difficult to enforce, and boost use of a drug that creates many health problems. Judge Lynda M. Connolly, chief justice of the state's District Court Department, issued an eight-page memorandum to court officials on Dec. 23, spelling out the effects of the law. The memorandum said that municipalities may need to adopt ordinances and bylaws to ban the public use of marijuana. Such bylaws had been unnecessary previously because possession of any amount of marijuana was illegal. Under the law, violators aged 18 and above must pay the $100 civil penalty to a city or town clerk. Or, offenders can appeal the citation to a clerk magistrate for a civil hearing, Connolly wrote. Offenders must also forfeit any marijuana, she wrote. The state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security has determined that a civil violation for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana after Jan. 2 cannot be used to disqualify an applicant for a license to carry a firearm, Connolly wrote. Whitney A. Taylor, campaign manager for the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said many of the concerns of prosecutors and police are red herrings. Possession of small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in 11 other states, she noted. "We have a system I'm very confident can handle this," she said of the new law. John M. Collins, general counsel for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association in Grafton, said people voted with their hearts and were unaware of some "bizarre consequences" of the law. One such unintended consequence, he said, is that the state cannot discipline public employees, including police officers, for use or possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The law specifically says that public entities cannot impose any form of penalty for such possession, Collins said. The new law could also cost the state a lot of money, he said. The law created a diversion program for people under 18, but did not fund it, Collins added. Two state laboratories that test illegal drugs are unlikely to continue testing for small amounts of marijuana once it is decriminalized, he said. "They are not going to test it any more," Collins said. Officials have said the laboratories are already backed up. Also, a couple of important public health rules go into effect with the new year. Under a state Department of Public Health rule, emergency rooms in hospitals may no longer reroute ambulances to other hospitals. Some emergency rooms divert ambulances to other hospitals if they are overcrowded. As of Jan. 1, hospitals must stop these temporary closures of emergency rooms in almost all cases. Also starting next month, tax penalties will increase for people who can afford health insurance but refuse to obtain it. A 2006 health-care law established the penalties and the requirement for purchasing health insurance. In 2008, the fine for an individual making more than three times the federal poverty level - $31,212 a year for singles - was $76 a month or $912 a year. Draft regulations released on Dec. 22, however, showed that beginning on Jan. 1, fines will climb to $89 a month or $1,068 for an entire year if an individual remains uninsured. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Complete Title: Lawmen Decry New Mass. Law That Decriminalizes Small Amounts of MarijuanaSource: Republican, The (Springfield, MA)Author: Dan RingPublished: Wednesday, December 31, 2008Copyright: 2008 The RepublicanContact: letters repub.comURL: Articles: Question Resurrects Old Debate It’s Still Illegal: Pot Puffing Rules Unnecessary
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #20 posted by Hope on January 02, 2009 at 11:09:48 PT
"Decry"? "Gird"?
Sounds different than the usual pot puns and slurs we are subjected to.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #19 posted by Hope on January 02, 2009 at 10:50:57 PT
So true. Competence could have gotten the right citation/ticket books printed and delivered by now. Wouldn't want to show any competence, it might come to be expected, I guess.I wonder that they don't have one generic citation/ticket book to do all their citations on. There's a file cabinet of offenses that people are liable to be cited with today. Do the police carry around a file cabinet full of dedicated ticket books?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #18 posted by ezrydn on January 02, 2009 at 02:33:36 PT:
Leos and Knasing of teeth
Instead of taking the last two months to have citations made, the oops continually decry" We don'tknow how!" If they're so incompetent, it's timefor them to find another job.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #17 posted by FoM on January 01, 2009 at 09:03:17 PT
I really hope that your Governor stands for the people in the end. I know that politicians don't understand all the issues people care about but I really hope they learn that we are important. People will put up with a lot if necessary if they know their leaders will listen to them. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #16 posted by Sam Adams on January 01, 2009 at 08:48:40 PT
thrill of victory
EJ, it's not their faces that are stinging from that Election Day spanking! ha ha ha Happy New YearI'd hold off on the Deval Patrick love-in - his Public Safety Secretary has urged all the towns in Mass. to pass their own criminal ordinances against MJ possession. That is pretty much giving the middle fingers to the voters.Patrick did ignore the DA's request to delay Q2 implementation, but that might have meant a nasty battle in the courts with him losing in the end, in the middle of a state budget crisis and ongoing corruptions scandals.No, I would say that the adage of "government doesn't give up power unless it's forced" holds true here. The referendum boxed them into a corner where they just ran out of options to stop the law.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #15 posted by E_Johnson on January 01, 2009 at 08:29:21 PT
Sam Adams that's such a beautiful number
Yes, 65% -- it tells them that reefer madness propaganda now only works on the kind of people who still like Bush. It's not even working on moderate Republicans any more, with those numbers.They have lost credibility and been rebuked. That's a powerful thing to witness.I see their faces are still stinging from that slap.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by FoM on January 01, 2009 at 08:21:26 PT
I really like your Governor. He didn't support Question 2 but he will not handicap the will of the people. That is the kind of Governor that I wish all Governors were. Onward thru the fog.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by Sam Adams on January 01, 2009 at 08:17:34 PT
media in Mass.
I think I thought that after the huge Q2 victory, things might change in the media. But no, I think we can continue to expect this.The cops and DA's will continue to rant in 1984isms against cannabis, and the media will continue to give them the headlines and 90% of the article, right up until we vote in full legalization by 2 to 1, and beyond. They'll still be ranting against cannabis when it becomes the national plant! Now that I expect it, it'd not nearly as disturbing.The big change that HAS happened is that the wild Reefer Madness and yellow journalism has lost its traction with elected officials. The DA's keep pleading with the governor to do something and he won't.  The elected officials can't seem to get one number out of their heads - 65 percent. The elected ones NEED that 65 percent! Without that 65 percent voting for them it's back to the real world for them. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by John Tyler on January 01, 2009 at 08:12:04 PT
change we need
The prohibitionists (the cops, and DA’s, and all) seem to think that somehow the voters voted for decrim. because they were ignorant, or misled, or confused, or something. That assumption is not the case. Voting for decrim. was their first chance to tear down the oppressive edifice of cannabis prohibition and end the arrests, jailings, fines, “shakedowns”, “scams”, and all of the other extended life wrecking implication that went along with it. The voters should note who these foot dragging DA’s, judges, and politicians are, and vote them out of office in the next election cycle.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by FoM on January 01, 2009 at 07:20:53 PT
A Little Jerry Garcia for the New Year
Grateful Dead - Ripple
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by potpal on January 01, 2009 at 07:11:30 PT
the law
Laws change, subsequently law enforcement must change with them. Remember protect and serve, not collect and rule.Of course, it's the money they'll miss and the fun busting nice people. The power too.Prohibition is the hoax.The answer: Legalize and regulate it. Cut law enforcement loose to catch real criminals.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by FoM on January 01, 2009 at 06:14:59 PT
OT: Police Could Lay Off 200
Maybe the police are scared of losing an income with the new marijuana laws in Massachusetts. They might just need to go after real criminals now.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by FoM on January 01, 2009 at 05:48:32 PT
Just a Question
Why have police had any say in making laws? I thought police were to enforce laws and stay out of making laws.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by runruff on January 01, 2009 at 05:27:05 PT
But seriously folks!
We here in Oregon have had an ongoing tug of war with the fascist feds for 30 years. We went legal, illegal, legal illegal, decrim, med-marijuana. Are our cops confused? Damn right they are! They are also pretty subdued lately.One summer in '92 outside of Hammer's [a favorite heath food store and deli frequented by counter culture types] someone called the sheriff and said that some teenager was in front of Hammer's with a joint. Two deputies pull up. After identifying the teen the two big leos tackled the skinny little kid, through him to the ground. One sat on him while the other went through his pockets and found the joint.. They took him away in handcuffs. Meanwhile locals all complained that you couldn't get a cop on an investigation, or to make a service call in less it is to confiscate a joint from some kid.See, cops live in their own little bubble and will never get it. It is profitable for them not to "get it". I think these idiots are trying some adolesent tactic called quilt tripping the puplic for doing this to THEM!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by runruff on January 01, 2009 at 05:10:12 PT
And then.....
after loosing the vote on the referendum, The head cheese, the big cop and DA, collectively whined and their final statement was; boo hoo!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by runruff on January 01, 2009 at 05:04:25 PT
I am not a fan!
"The law is very confusing,""The law presents a lot of problems for law enforcement." Law enforcement has a long history of inability to comprehend the law!I'm sure when they signed up they didn't anticipate having to actually THINK!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by OverwhelmSam on January 01, 2009 at 04:09:22 PT
Too Stubborn To Learn
Sorry law enforcement. You are too stubborn to learn that your authority does not extend beyond the written law.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on January 01, 2009 at 00:43:40 PT
"The law is very confusing..."
"It's a disaster, and it was unfortunately a hoax perpetrated on the public..."Sounds like they're talking about the original laws against cannabis.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by The GCW on December 31, 2008 at 22:57:32 PT
It's almost the end.It's almost the beginning.The 1st and the last.-When Will I See You Again?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by The GCW on December 31, 2008 at 22:39:03 PT
The new law is going to have intended consequences.INTENDEDCONSEQUENCES.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment