Danvers Police Set To Enforce Marijuana Law

Danvers Police Set To Enforce Marijuana Law
Posted by CN Staff on January 17, 2009 at 08:22:12 PT
By Cathryn Keefe O’Hare, Danvers Herald
Source: Danvers Herald 
Danvers, MA -- Although not happy that individuals found with one ounce or less of marijuana will no longer be subject to arrest, Danvers Police are ready with $100 tickets for such individuals and parental notification forms for those under 18, said Police Chief Neil Ouellette.Voters passed the decriminalization of marijuana through a ballot question in the November elections. The law became effective Jan. 2.
The law states that possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will be a civil offense, punishable by a $100 fine. Much like a parking ticket, those caught with the drug can appeal the ticket within 21 days. For those under 18 caught with the drug, in addition to having to pay the fine, teens will have their parents notified and will also have to complete a drug-education program within one year of the offense.“The law didn’t legalize marijuana use or possession,” explained Chief Ouellette this week. “The law just made it a civil penalty.”Some police departments in the state have reportedly decided not to report any marijuana use, since they consider the law flawed and unenforceable. But, Danvers police are not among them, Chief Oullette emphasized.“We get paid to enforce the law. Our officers will be out there and will continue to do their jobs as they do every day,” the chief said.Under the new law, marijuana is still defined as contraband, and according to the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety, all laws concerning distributing, selling, manufacturing or trafficking the substance, remain intact. If there is probable cause to believe that a suspect is engaged in distribution or possession with intent to distribute, then police may charge that suspect criminally. Also unchanged are laws related to driving under the influence of marijuana.The Essex County Chiefs of Police had a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 7, at District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s Office, to learn more about the law and its implications for police, Ouellette said.In addition, Danvers police met on Thursday, Jan. 8, with lawyer John Scheft who comes in from time to time to update them on legal matters. So, by Friday they felt comfortable about the tickets and parental notification form that they will be issuing.Ouellette joins other police who are not “entirely comfortable” with the new law, since one ounce of marijuana can make up to 60 marijuana cigarettes, which he indicated is not insignificant.Yet the new Massachusetts law is not unique. The state is one of a dozen or so states that have similar decriminalization laws, including Ohio, Oregon, North Carolina and New York.“The thing that’s been lost is that this is nothing new,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. “Some of the law-enforcement people in Massachusetts have been acting like this is some strange experiment, but this is nothing of the sort.”Mirken added that he is not surprised the law passed with such overwhelming support. “We are talking about a substance that is absolutely beyond a doubt safer than alcohol or tobacco,” he said. “To give someone a criminal record for possessing a small amount of pot simply makes no sense.”Some language in the law will need tweaking by the Legislature, Ouellette said. For instance, there is no provision for what to do if someone refuses to give his or her name.“Police officers are pretty resourceful,” he said about the issue. “If they are local people, we will identify them.”Ouellette expects to receive some phone calls complaining about people who might think decriminalizing means it is entirely legal. Others, too, are concerned. As an added protection for the public, the state Department of Public Safety suggested that local bylaws prohibiting public drinking might be amended to include a prohibition of public smoking of marijuana.Ouellette hopes to bring the idea to Town Manager Wayne Marquis and to Town Meeting, possibly in May.The penalty for public drinking is arrest and detention for booking and bail processing and a penalty of $50, Ouellette said.Nikki Gamer, a reporter with the Marblehead Reporter, contributed to this report.Source: Danvers Herald (MA)Author: Cathryn Keefe O’Hare, Danvers HeraldPublished: January 16, 2009Copyright: 2009 GateHouse Media, Inc.Contact: danver cnc.comURL: Articles:Half-Baked Reasons For Opposing Pot Law Thwarts Marijuana Proposal
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Comment #2 posted by Storm Crow on January 17, 2009 at 19:15:40 PT
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January 17, 2009
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