Towns Try To Punish Public Marijuana Use

  Towns Try To Punish Public Marijuana Use

Posted by CN Staff on March 25, 2009 at 12:45:25 PT
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff  
Source: Boston Globe 

Boston, MA -- Dozens of Massachusetts cities and towns are taking steps to impose stiff new fines for smoking marijuana in public and even to charge some violators with misdemeanors, a trend that critics say subverts the state ballot question passed overwhelmingly last fall to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.In recent weeks, at least seven communities - Duxbury, Lynn, Methuen, Medway, Milford, Salem, and Springfield - have passed bylaws that target people who light up in public. And two dozen cities and towns expect to vote this spring on similar measures, which proponents liken to local open container laws that ban drinking alcohol in public.
Police officials say they want to discourage flagrant marijuana smoking, particularly in public parks, schoolyards, and on beaches where young children gather. While last year's ballot initiative reduced possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction carrying a $100 fine, police say that some marijuana smokers mistakenly believe that the voters legalized the drug entirely."If you're smoking marijuana in front of schoolchildren, to me that's a little bit more serious than smoking a joint by yourself out in the middle of the woods," said Salem police Captain Brian Gilligan. His city recently authorized officers to fine public smokers $300 in addition to the $100 fine for possession. The Salem bylaw also lets officers give them a misdemeanor summons, although Gilligan predicted that few will get them.Advocates of last fall's ballot initiative say the new civil fines for smoking marijuana in public are, at best, unnecessary because those individuals can already be fined for possession. At worst, they say, bylaws that treat smoking violations as a misdemeanor are a backdoor attempt to subvert the will of Massachusetts voters, who approved decriminalization in November by a margin of nearly 2 to 1."This seems to be much more about people who never liked the law to begin with looking for an end run around the will of the voters," said Dan Bernath, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that rallied support for the ballot initiative known as Question 2. "And it's particularly disturbing because they were wrong on this policy. The voters were right."Question 2 passed by a vote of 65 to 35 percent, making Massachusetts one of a dozen states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, Bernath said. Proponents of the change, including billionaire financier George Soros, who spent more than $400,000 in favor of decriminalization, said that it would ensure that those caught with small quantities would avoid the taint of a criminal record.The measure, which took effect Jan. 2, turned possession of an ounce or less of marijuana into a civil offense on par with a traffic violation. (Previously, simple possession was a misdemeanor that carried penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.) Violators under 18 must attend a drug-awareness program that includes 10 hours of community service. The fine increases to $1,000 for those who fail to complete the program within a year.While the state law goes after those who possess marijuana, the cities and towns are now specifically targeting those who smoke the drug in public.The ballot question passed over the objections of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Massachusetts Association of District Attorneys, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and Governor Deval Patrick. They said decriminalization sends the wrong message and create a bureaucratic nightmare.Spokespersons for state public safety officials and the court system said they did not keep track of how many people have received citations so far.The statewide referendum specifically said each city and town could pass bylaws banning public use of marijuana, and communities across the state have started doing that. They are relying on a sample bylaw provided by Coakley's office, which says fines can be imposed, a criminal penalty, or both, in addition to the $100 possession fine.Coakley's office reviews bylaws enacted to make sure they pass constitutional muster, but takes no position on penalizing people who smoke in public, said spokeswoman Emily LaGrassa.In recent weeks, Duxbury's Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved imposing a $300 fine on people who smoke marijuana in public. Methuen's City Council passed a bylaw to impose a $100 fine on people who light up at parks, playgrounds, on school grounds, or a public beach.Mayor William M. Manzi III of Methuen said he sponsored the measure because he wants to keep those areas free of marijuana and alcohol. "You can already be fined under a local ordinance for having an open container of Budweiser," he said.To show that Methuen was being even-handed, he added, the council increased the fine for drinking alcohol in public from $50 to $100, the same as the fine for public marijuana smoking.Some communities, however, are also authorizing officers to give people who smoke in public a misdemeanor summons.Residents attending Milford's Town Meeting, for example, recently approved such a bylaw. The measure also imposes a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for subsequent offenses.Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin of Milford said he favored decriminalization last fall. But he supported the local bylaw because police need a tool to contend with young people who flout state law by smoking in public, sometimes in groups that make it difficult to determine who owns the marijuana."In the circumstances where you have a dozen young people or two dozen young people out in a park at night, OK, who possesses what?" he said.He said it was unlikely that officers would charge smokers with a misdemeanor, given that police have long exercised discretion when arresting someone for marijuana possession. Last year, before decriminalization, Milford police arrested only 34 people for possession, he said, a fraction of those police could have charged.Since marijuana has been decriminalized, he added, officers have handed out only one citation, and that was to a high school student whose parents wanted him to get counseling."Believe me, we're not walking around town looking through people's windows to see whether they're smoking a joint," O'Loughlin said.But critics of the bylaws are skeptical.Steven Epstein, a Georgetown lawyer and founder of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, said he believes the efforts amount to recriminalization and are "all motivated by police chiefs who lost their power when they no longer had the arbitrary power to arrest people for possessing or using marijuana."Source: Boston Globe (MA)Author: Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff Published: March 25, 2009Copyright: 2009 Globe Newspaper CompanyContact: letter globe.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives 

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Comment #32 posted by FoM on March 28, 2009 at 14:52:55 PT
We are making progress. I am very pleased with the direction we are going. We have a smart and open minded President that if we don't get him so angry that he tunes us out we will keep moving forward. These are delicate times and words and ideas do matter.
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Comment #31 posted by josephlacerenza on March 28, 2009 at 14:35:03 PT
T o the Future
The hardest part of being in the college atmosphere, as an employee and as a student, is that you have to watch what you say, and to who you say it. I'm not always good with this. When asked, "What do you want to do when you get out?" I have to say, "biofuels" and deal with that argument/discussion. I can not say, "I want to work in the cannabis industry.", and still be taken seriously as a student, or fledgling scientist.I do want to raise a glass to the work that has been done, just sense Bush II has been gone. We hear it, we see it, people are talking, and laughing, but here WE are biding our time!!! 
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Comment #30 posted by FoM on March 28, 2009 at 12:56:25 PT
About The Benefits of Cannabis and Hemp
I know the mass production of cannabis and hemp will help create many good jobs all over the country. The problem I've had is with a $50 tax on pot that was proposed. That won't work because taxes like that will prevent the industry from growing and prospering. I want to see good quality cannabis sold in organic farmers markets and possibly health food stores. As far as a new green industry products made from cannabis and hemp would help the economy. 
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Comment #29 posted by Hope on March 28, 2009 at 12:54:04 PT
Fighting brush fires in California...
Clear the brush, or just some of it, and put up green fire stops and hedgerows of green, green cannabis/hemp. The animals and eco system will not be harmed, but helped, with food and shelter.Remember how that military guy in Afghanistan said they couldn't burn the cannabis fields there... even with white phosphorous?There's something extraordinarily valuable there and it's being ignored and smirked at ... because it's cannabis.
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Comment #28 posted by Had Enough on March 28, 2009 at 12:35:07 PT
Online Question- The Holistic Approach…
in josephlacerenza’s post is what I’m thinkin’ too...  When legalized, the price of the final product will fall due to economics 101, supply and demand. But at the same time it will create jobs to handle the product, and it will also create spin-off jobs as mentioned… Such as…Mechanical engineers will be needed to design harvesting machines, factory workers will be needed make the machines, companies will be needed to supply the factories, construction and maintenance workers will be needed to build and maintain the factories, all the companies that supply and maintain the equipment gizmos that are part of the operation of the manufacturing process…and the economical spin-off goes on and on…advertisement, delivery companies, stores…even the local power, telephone, water utilities…etc…And we can't leave out the farmers and their suppliers either…tractors, fencing, barn materials…It will…you know…create jobs…what you hear every time those bloviated politicians get airtime that they always seem to mention…’We need to create jobs’When the added savings to the taxpayers with less law enforcement, jail, court, probation costs… It won’t SAVE the economy…but it sure would help…And let us not forget the tangible damage done to people…death…jail…criminal records for life…denial of employment opportunities…and on and on and on…Snickering, grinning, and blowing this issue off is NOT an applaudable laughing matter to me.
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Comment #27 posted by Hope on March 28, 2009 at 12:19:33 PT
Josephlacerenza Comment 25
That's very admirable, Joseph. Very admirable.
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Comment #26 posted by Hope on March 28, 2009 at 12:14:59 PT
If "Green" is the new way to live.
If "Green" is the better way to live, you don't get much "Greener", if you can at all, than hemp/cannabis and all it's many benefits and uses."Green" medicine. Producing or manufacturing the cannabis plant is actually good for the soil and the air and all the creatures of the field. Do you suppose there is anything in pharmaceutical or whisky manufacturing that's actually good for our planet? A safer and very "Green" relaxation enhancer (Sativa Indica), and a safer, "Green" mental and physical stimulant (Cannabis Sativa). "Green" building and manufacturing. "Green" fuel. "Green" eco system. Less chemical pharmaceuticals in the water supply. They act like that's important. Why not look in to what people say, that they can reduce their use of chemical pharmaceuticals with a bit of cannabis along side? Cannabis metabolites have to be easier on the water system and our hope for, as great as possible, natural purity in that system, than Prozac and Viagra metabolites.You don't get any "Greener" than cannabis/hemp.
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Comment #25 posted by josephlacerenza on March 28, 2009 at 11:39:43 PT
I'm Just One of Those People Hope
I am currently going to school to work in the biofuels industry. I would love to live here in the states and work with cannabis!! I want to have a job doing something I feel is making the world a better place. I think we all want this. I want to pay my taxes. Some of the time, it seems that my taxes actually do good for people, when the government is not buying guns and bombs I mean. Cannabis is the true Green Collar Job creater!!
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Comment #24 posted by Hope on March 28, 2009 at 11:31:11 PT

You know
some people might actually enjoy working in the legal cannabis/hemp industry.
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Comment #23 posted by FoM on March 28, 2009 at 11:14:57 PT

I agree with your statement. For people that think the prices would stay up it just won't happen. Supply and demand will determine the cost per ounce. When Cannabis and or Hemp is mass produced outside where it should be grown we will have a surplus but then the industry turns a corner and the plant itself will make different products like clothing etc. People will need to be hired to harvest cannabis and machines would probably harvest hemp. Many jobs would be created which is what our country needs. 
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Comment #22 posted by josephlacerenza on March 28, 2009 at 10:55:33 PT

Marijuana and Taxes
FoM is right, the taxes would be low for a producer of hemp and cannabis, but what about the jobs? Jobs create additional tax revanue not relized in the taxing of the commodity. Those new jobs create an environment were more can be taxed, fuel to get to work, property taxes on a new home. Not to mention, the small farmer will have another tool in the toolbox to make money. When looked at in a wholistic approach, cannabis hemp legalization would bring in substantial taxes.p.s. sorry about the spelling, I don't have firefox on this old computer.
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Comment #21 posted by FoM on March 27, 2009 at 09:41:54 PT

He didn't rule out anything except in an economy based forum that it wouldn't help. Cannabis would become so inexpensive the tax would be very low and that won't help fix the economy. 
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Comment #20 posted by ripit on March 27, 2009 at 09:31:17 PT:

he didn't rule out
anything yet. i agree this wont bail out the econ.we got to push rescheduleing now more than ever! espesially while the iron is hot.i seen lots of references to yesterdays online t.h.m.on the cw's dailybuzz news this morning .they have a an anchor or 2 who are in the chat room while they are on the air and they also flash veiwer emails across the screen on fridays and todays were all about cannabis and what happened yesterday!i just wish i knew how to talk to ppl about this better and get my point it is i find it all i can do just to post on an in every boards as many links and facts that i can!if anybodys got any tips for me let me have em!!
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Comment #19 posted by cliff on March 26, 2009 at 10:06:56 PT

"We took votes about which questions were going to be asked and I think 3 million people voted or — 3.5 million people voted," Obama said. "I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation and I don’t know what this says about the online audience audience, but I just want — I don’t want people to think that — this was a fairly popular question"I don't know what that says about the online audience," the president joked about its popularity."The answer is 'no," Obama said flatly, "I dont think that is a good strategy to grow our economy."A large round of applause greeted Obama's response.While an early AP wire story sported the headline "Obama says he opposes legalizing marijuana," it should be noted that the president specifically only dismissed the notion that the "cash crop" would significantly boost the economy.This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast Mar. 26, 2009.
Obama fields 'marijuana as cash crop' question at town hall meeting
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Comment #18 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 20:15:36 PT

Michigan has a chance to learn from the mistakes made in California. You have a chance to do it according to the law you have now in your state. I wish you the very best luck.
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Comment #17 posted by fight_4_freedom on March 25, 2009 at 20:12:07 PT

I knew deep down
that they would come again. I was just hoping to not hear about them for at least a little while.
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Comment #16 posted by fight_4_freedom on March 25, 2009 at 20:10:23 PT

After seeing all the good news you 
posted Paul, maybe I should just focus on the positive for now. All this legislative action definitely outweighs another typical thug enforcement agency raid.I don't think our movement has ever witnessed this much momentum at one time. This is all just fantastic!I will probably be without the internet for a little bit coming up here, so I will try to pop in here any chance I get.With the way things are going I'm bound to be backed up on articles for a while. But that's a good thing :)
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 20:04:41 PT

I thought they would continue. I bet there will be more raids if people aren't following the state's law.
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Comment #14 posted by fight_4_freedom on March 25, 2009 at 19:55:14 PT

They don't know when to stop
do they??? I hope to God that someone from this administration looks thoroughly into this one.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 19:27:12 PT

Drug Agents Raid SF Medical Marijuana Clinic
March 25, 2009URL:
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 17:46:21 PT

DEA Raid in SF This Afternoon
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Comment #11 posted by paul armentano on March 25, 2009 at 16:30:54 PT

More: IL Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Senate Comm
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Comment #10 posted by paul armentano on March 25, 2009 at 16:23:35 PT

NH et al
Huge kudos go out to Matt Simon and for swinging this vote from a narrow defeat two years ago to a huge victory today!Naturally, Gov. Lynch is “concerned.” Last year his ‘concerns’ regarding a moderate decrim proposal torpedoed it DEAD in the Senate. (The House had narrowly approved it.) Let’s hope for a better outcome this year!This has been a crazy week for legislative reform. I'll have a comprehensive blog update on the NORML home page tomorrow. And you can always go here for the latest: a nutshell, there have been committee hearings regarding medical marijuana in MT, IL, MD and MN over the past week. MT is expected to vote Friday on their bill.There have been committee hearings re: decriminalization in CT and RI. MT deadlocked 9-9 on decrim on Monday.In Massachusetts, a pair of bills have been introduced to legalize medical marijuana, as well as bills to tax and regulate the commercial production and retail sales of cannabis: can support these efforts here: I'm not kidding when I say that's not all...
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 16:04:23 PT

N.H.: House Approves Medical Marijuana
Bill's Prospects In Senate, With Governor Unclear March 25, 2009CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire residents with cancer and other painful ailments could grow and use a small amount of marijuana for medicinal purposes under legislation approved by the House.The House voted 234-138 Wednesday to send the bill to the Senate.Gov. John Lynch has said he has concerns about the bill.The bill would allow severely ill patients or their caregivers to grow and possess six marijuana plants and 2 ounces of the drug. The bill requires doctors to certify a patient has a debilitating medical condition and would benefit from the therapeutic or palliative effect of marijuana.The bill's prospects in the Senate are uncertain.Copyright: 2009 by The Associated Press
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 16:01:40 PT

I agree this has been an amazing day for us. 
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Comment #7 posted by paul armentano on March 25, 2009 at 15:58:03 PT

NH House just voted to legalize med-mj
This is a good day!
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 15:27:18 PT

Top Two Questions Under Green Jobs & Energy
Current Popular Questions:URL:""Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana(hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”"Green Machine, Winchester,Va   
***"Has your administration given any serious thought to how legalizing marijuana could help solve the economic crisis? We could tax this green product and create an influx of cash while reducing violence created by the war of drugs & illegal trafficking"Ashley, Brooklyn, NY  
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Comment #5 posted by HempWorld on March 25, 2009 at 15:09:20 PT

The police in the USA ...
Lie, steal and cheat and interfere in making laws and then only uphold their own career interest such as more pay, more arrests, more power, more discretion etc.I have lived in 6 other countries in my life and it has always amazed me how much power the police in the USA have. It has also amazed me how much the police in the USA, are involved in law-making, something they know nothing about. A process that requires legal experise and training in legal matters.After the repeal alcohol prohibition, Anslinger had to find a new way to create employment for all the booze chasing cops. This is how cannabis and hemp prohibition came about. And it is basically a giant con-job. Hopefully, times will get so dire for the states and the municipalities that this massive government-led fraud will be done away with.
On a mission from God!
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 15:06:29 PT

Got a Question? The President's Listening
 March 25, 2009Have a burning question for the commander in chief?President Barack Obama is now taking your questions as part of a special online town hall Thursday about the economy."Open for Questions" has been billed by the White House as an experiment in giving the nation a "direct line" to Obama, who's promised more transparency and accountability by government. People can send their videotaped questions or type them to under various issue categories; they can also flag bad questions and vote on which ones the president should answer."President Obama: What benefits from the stimulus plan are there to those of us who are paying our mortgages, but living paycheck to paycheck?" Heather from Maumee, Ohio, asked in the question rated most popular under the home ownership category.In the budget category, the first six most-popular questions are all about legalizing and taxing marijuana. "With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy?" wrote Ryan P. from Dallas, Texas. "Do we really need that many victimless criminals?"URL: Article:,0,2531535.story
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Comment #3 posted by George Servantes on March 25, 2009 at 13:57:20 PT

The empire stikes back
Police is so against marijuana cause they want to keep their jobs. They express their political opinion all the time in favor of prohibition and putting marijuana users in jail, I thought they said they just enforce laws.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 12:53:06 PT

Butt Out Feds
By John StosselMarch 25, 2009 URL:
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 12:50:59 PT

Legalize Marijuana — and Tax It, Too
 Wednesday, March 25, 2009Northampton, Mass. -- Is it time — yet — to tax marijuana?California dodged a budget bullet, and now Massachusetts, New York and other states are under the same gun. As governors and state legislatures scrape for new sources of revenue, has the time come to talk seriously — really seriously, without winks, puns and smirks — about regulating and taxing marijuana?URL:
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