MJ Decriminalization Thrills Some, Worries Others

MJ Decriminalization Thrills Some, Worries Others
Posted by CN Staff on January 03, 2009 at 09:41:09 PT
By Shauna Staveley
Source: Sentinel And Enterprise
Massachusetts -- Ashby resident Dustin Rantala thinks the law decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a benefit to Massachusetts taxpayers. "Such a small amount of marijuana really isn't a big deal," Rantala, 18, said Friday night outside of Market Basket on John Fitch Highway in Fitchburg. "I think it's going to be good because all our tax money isn't going to be going toward (prosecution)."
Massachusetts voters passed Question 2 in November, making possession of an ounce or less of THC -- the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, hashish or hash oil -- subject to civil penalties instead of criminal penalties in the state. The penalties include a $100 dollar fine and police confiscating the drug, and the law excludes distribution and driving under the influence. The law went into effect Friday. Police chiefs and the state's 11 district attorneys opposed marijuana decriminalization. They said it would ease access to what they consider a "gateway drug" and impede their ability to arrest drug traffickers and other criminals who often first become suspects because of marijuana possession. Rantala said he did feel that marijuana was a "gateway drug," meaning if someone tries marijuana they would be more likely to try other drugs as well. "But, I think if they're not strong enough to say no to other drugs, they'll also do the other drugs anyway," Rantala said. Steven Epstein, treasurer and one of the founders of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, said Friday that "it's about time" a law like Question 2 passed. "Yet, it doesn't go far enough," Epstein said. "It should be legalized, regulated and taxed like alcoholic beverages, and for those who have medical needs, and hemp should be grown for all its virtuous uses." Tammy Chartier, from Ashby, said she voted "yes" on Question 2 outside of Market Basket. "I just think if you get stuck with a little bit, it shouldn't ruin your whole life," Chartier said, adding that treatment is a better solution. Kevin Chartier, shopping with Tammy Chartier, said offenders should be "given a chance to get healthy" when caught in public, not arrested. But Tammy Chartier said only one chance should be given. "If they do it again, they should have to go to jail," Tammy Chartier said. Kevin Chartier said it's a good idea to have a drug program for offenders younger than 18. "If they're under age, give them a chance to go through a drug program, and I think their parents should be involved with it," Kevin Chartier said. Under the new law, the parents or legal guardians of offenders younger than 18 will be notified of the marijuana offense, according to the Web site of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The offender is directed to take a drug awareness program, and if the offender does not complete the program within a year, he or she could pay a fine up to $1,000 unless the offender cannot afford to pay, a program is not available, or the offender shows an "inability to pay," according to the Web site. Tammy Chartier said she supports the idea of municipalities creating bylaws or ordinances to discourage marijuana use in public. Fitchburg Police Chief Robert DeMoura said on Tuesday he wants to look into ways to make public marijuana smoking an arrestable offense. "This law raises a lot of challenges for law enforcement, city officials and school officials," DeMoura said. "So we need to review what we feel is a fair response to this locally." DeMoura said he wants to place restrictions on the drug's use similar to restrictions of public alcohol consumption. Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong said on Tuesday that she would support some restrictions on public marijuana use. However, she said she would want to ensure that any ordinance does not impose on civil liberties. "I support looking into an ordinance," said Wong, who opposed Question 2. "We just want to make sure ... we don't go beyond what a local municipality can legally do." But possession has "already been theoretically prohibited in public," Epstein said . "The only thing is, do not recriminalize it," Epstein said. "Do not use bylaws and ordinances prohibiting use in public so police officers can throw handcuffs on people (for possession of less than an ounce)." Epstein said he was not surprised Question 2 passed by such a large margin, with 65 percent voting in favor and 35 against. "The reason we knew it would pass is we had public policy questions on the ballot that always passed by a similar margin," Epstein said. Epstein said he'd like to see an amendment of medicinal marijuana use laws by the Legislature. He said patients have to go through extra, unnecessary steps to access the drug. "Right now our law says we have to get federal approval for the source of medicine, and 13 other states don't require that. ... for me, it's about individual liberty." Chris Bujold, owner of the Boulder Cafe in Fitchburg, said he voted in favor of Question 2 and felt the issue was not about whether people disagree or agree with the use of marijuana. "It's about whether or not you felt the funds were being spent responsibly, to the tune of $30 million dollars a year to prosecute those who have offended," Bujold said. He said he didn't feel the prohibition of marijuana before the passing of Question 2 was successful. "I don't think there's any enablement as far as the quantity is concerned," Bujold said of the rule that less than an ounce is decriminalized. "The quantity is not going to allow people to make a profit, not going to allow anybody to do something they hadn't done before." As for whether the new law could adversely affect his business, he said he'll treat smoking marijuana the way he'd treat the smoking of a cigarette in the Boulder Cafe -- he would not allow it. "It's prohibited by the Commonwealth," Bujold said. "We don't let people smoke anything inside the establishment. So I don't feel it affects us in any way on the inside. ... We're responsible for what happens inside our four walls, and making sure we don't enable somebody to do something after they leave," such as driving under the influence of a drug. Source: Sentinel And Enterprise, The (MA)Author: Shauna StaveleyPublished: January 3, 2009Copyright: 2009 MediaNews Group, Inc. and Mid-States Newspapers, Inc.Contact: letters sentinelandenterprise.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:MassCann Answers Few on 'Question 2' Marijuana Law Shouldn't Pose Problems 
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on January 05, 2009 at 06:14:50 PT
I can only imagine how expensive it would be to live there. When I think of different states I think of the spirit that seems to drive them. Colorado has always impressed me as a free spirit state.
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Comment #11 posted by Dankhank on January 04, 2009 at 21:35:05 PT
Denver ...
I'd like to live there, but it is way expensive.for now I visit regularly, as my son lives there and continue to enjoy the city. Son lives downtown, so it's always hopping.I met some good people there during the DNC, one, a fellow C-newser.for now, I play the lotto, and if I win a big one I'll buy a building there ... :-)
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on January 04, 2009 at 09:55:24 PT
You don't have to answer me but you really seem to love Denver. Have you ever thought of moving there? 
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Comment #9 posted by Dankhank on January 04, 2009 at 09:45:51 PT
how utterly marvelous life has become for cannabis consumers in MA. I had to spark up some kind from Denver while reading the story.I feel much like that when in Denver, though, the cops are still a**holes there, it's quite mellow.peace to all who favor sanity ...
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Comment #8 posted by Hope on January 04, 2009 at 07:50:53 PT
Ekim comment 2
That's all wonderful news! Thank you!
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Comment #7 posted by Sam Adams on January 04, 2009 at 07:50:24 PT
LA video
Wow, that story on California is amazing. As a medical patient it would be incredible to go to the Farmacy.With $100 million in sales tax alone, the industry should have made a few new best friends in the state legislature. There must be a number for income tax & property tax revenue associated with the dispensaries - remember they're just like the tip of the iceberg - the retail front is at the very end of the supply chain.500 thriving new businesses in any state is huge boost, this is how capitalism creates wealth.I love the picture in the Herald article, great view of Boston. cannabis users always go for the nice view or outdoor spot. Conrast that with alchohol users, who seek dark indoor places with no windows."Smokers, cops roll with new law" beautiful!
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Comment #6 posted by OverwhelmSam on January 04, 2009 at 05:26:45 PT
Much Ado About Nothing
All the paranoia has some people in a state of shock. LOLIn cased you missed it:CNBC SAYS - MARIJUANA = LARGEST CASH CROP IN CA journalism. Note the reporter actually seems happy about the business development of marijuana.
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Comment #5 posted by The GCW on January 03, 2009 at 22:19:37 PT
Sam Adams,
Thanks for the MASS POLL.
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Comment #4 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 03, 2009 at 21:27:59 PT
I'm so happy for the people of MA
A step towards freedom :)
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Comment #3 posted by Sam Adams on January 03, 2009 at 20:54:55 PT
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Comment #2 posted by ekim on January 03, 2009 at 13:55:44 PT
creation of a national, blue-ribbon commission 
Mornin, LEAP assures me that the Washington project is important. As soon as funds are available, the cowboy will once again walk the halls of Congress...all the best in 2009. howard & Misty 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------LEAP on the Hill Stories from the week of the last week of 2008 Howard the honeybee: Since the summer of 2007 when Senator Webb held his first hearing on the connection between the drug war and massive prison populations, I have been informing the 540 offices of his leadership on this issue. Even as late as this fall, many Senate offices had not heard of his initiative.* Three years ago former Congressman Bob Barr and I had a beer and a 45 minute conversation at a café in DC. He advised me that the fastest way to legalize all drugs was to emphasize the Good Samaritan Law (arrest-free 911 call for drug overdose) by creating a paradigm* shift from a law enforcement focus to public health. I have been dropping a copy of New Mexico’s law at each office for the review of the legislative aide who focuses on health. *initiative = gleich* paradigm = gleich My mentor informed me this month that my efforts are much like a honeybee who goes from flower to flower, leaving pollen. Staffers on the Hill depend on honeybees like me to keep them up to speed on what is going, new developments, etc. They truly appreciate honeybees. I am nearly in tears:  The scream you heard at 0545 EST on Monday was me. I opened the Washington Post to read that Senator Webb will in 2009 ask for legislation to authorize the creation of a national, blue-ribbon commission to investigate the matter of having 2.3 million in prison. This commission, boys and girls, is what I have been pushing since I began my first office visits in the fall of 2005.  I have been working closely with his office, since Webb announced in the spring of 2007 his concern about our country locking up 2.3 million.  Since my arrival 3 years ago, I have made a total of more than 1000 visits and 20-30 minute presentations to staff & on 17 occasions to the Member of Congress. Certainly LEAP can take credit that the ground for such a bill has been plowed, disked and dragged to the point where the seed has a better chance to grow and eventually bear fruit.  As I put the paper down, I choked up and nearly started crying. It is good to make a difference.  Postscript: Three years ago a lanky,* Texas cowboy rode his one-eyed horse into Washington, DC determined to make a difference. I believe we have.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 03, 2009 at 11:48:48 PT:
The prohibs just don't get it
How many gentle, carefully worded hints does it take before the prohibs realize that the reason why these laws are passing is because people have had enough. And the reason why the legislation was worded the way it was had a point: to show how basically unworkable (and inimical to human rights!) the present drug laws are. The public does not want people hurt by cannabis laws. It's that simple. But the prohibs just have to have their pound of flesh; they just have to punish, punish, PUNISH you any way they can for you having a little fun. Well, that's okay, too, as the public is seeing what kind of people have been entrusted with carrying out the people's will. That they show contempt for the democratic process...and for the people not going to sit very well with a great many voters.
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