Posts filed under ‘Question 2’

The Fight

Possession in Massachusetts is now decriminalized at the state level end-of-story-well-sort-of, but that doesn’t stop towns from passing their own bylaws banning public use. And if those laws are creatively crafted/applied, they could end up neutralizing a large part of what Question 2 did for us.

Especially if they make public use a criminal, misdemeanor offense.

Here is a letter that all residents of Boston should send to Mayor Menino. It is very adaptable to any other city – just replace the percentage of your city that supported the measure with the correct number and address the letter to your own mayor. If you live in a town, then address the letter the the appropriate official. (All contact information should be available on your city or town website).

The Honorable Thomas Menino

Mayor of Boston

1 City Hall Square, Suite 500

Boston, MA 02201-2013

Dear Mayor Menino:

I am writing to urge you to condemn any effort to recriminalize possession of marijuana in our city. While I recognize the arguments for outlawing public smoking of marijuana, I feel that any punishment should also take the form of a civil fine. When 71% of our city cast their ballots in favor of the Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative, we sent a strong message that we do not believe that personal use of marijuana is a crime – hence the term decriminalized.

As it stands, smoking marijuana in public is already illegal. Violators will have the marijuana confiscated and will be punished with a $100 fine. For many in our city, $100 is already steep sum, and, if that is coupled with an additional fine for public use, few will be willing to risk such an expensive activity.

We object, therefore, to the efforts to make public use of marijuana a misdemeanor offense. We voted for the measure – by a staggering margin! – specifically to avoid the hassle and expense to the city (and therefore taxpayers) of a criminal trial. Any effort to punish public use of marijuana as a criminal offense is thus tantamount to undermining 71% of our electorate.

Please consider the implications of ignoring what more than two-thirds of this city wants. On November 4th, we became a very vocal majority, and we want to ensure that our vote matters – that possession or use of less than an ounce of marijuana be treated as a civil violation and not a criminal offense.

Sincerely,

We worked hard for this law, and let’s make sure that our cities and towns don’t try to rob us of any part of the victory we had on November 4th.

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January 6, 2009 at 5:33 am Leave a comment

Massachusetts Decriminalization Takes Effect Today

Today is the day that possession of less than an ounce is decriminalized in Massachusetts. From today, possession will no longer be a criminal offense and will be punished by a $100 civil violation and confiscation of the contraband.

However, there are some things to keep in mind. Lynda M. Connolly, the Chief Justice, issued a pamphlet about the new law.

Here are some basics:

In some districts, the police are threatening not to enforce the new law altogether. They may run into some issues in court when it is revealed that they are arresting citizens for a non-criminal offense (imagine trying to handcuff someone for rolling a stop sign or forgetting to feed the meter). Still you may be best avoiding the situation altogether.

Some towns are passing bylaws making public smoking of marijuana a misdemeanor criminal offense. Because these laws vary from town, it is hard to make a blanket statement about all of them, but it is possible that some could be worded badly enough that they apply to possession in public as well. Thus, it would be advisable not to walk down the street with a dime bag in your hands.

And, keep in mind – while marijuana has been decriminalized, it has not been legalized. $100 tickets could start to add up, and while they will not create a criminal record, they nevertheless do create a viewable record. If your job (or a job you aspire to have) forbids drug use, you would be best avoiding the fine altogether.

Before, police enforced the marijuana possession law weakly. Now, as evidenced on MassCops, they will be much stricter. Be smart – lighting up a joint in the middle of the Commons (or even a back alley) is probably not a good idea.

Also, the only law that has been changed is the one regarding possession of less than an ounce. Other violations, such as possession of more than an ounce, purchase, sale, and intent to distribute, are all still criminal offenses, and the police are likely to be more strict about those offenses with this new law. Dividing up half an ounce into two or more bags could be considered intent to distribute. It would be advisable not to risk the criminal offense – don’t divide up your stash into multiple parts. And passing a joint back and forth could be considered distribution, rather than simply possession.

In other words: While the penalties for possession have decreased, the risk of heavier charges instead of possession has increased. Use the same precautions under the new law that you used under the old law.

Lastly, OUIs are still criminal offenses. Not to mention that they are dangerous. Do not take the new law as an opportunity to drive while stoned. Officers no doubt will try and charge people with OUI instead of possession even when a driver is sober. Don’t make it any easier for them.

We worked hard to decriminalize marijuana in Massachusetts on the grounds that most marijuana users are safe and responsible. This is our chance to prove that we were right – let’s make the most of it.

Remember, Legal.Now does not encourage criminal activity. (Thankfully, though, possession is no longer a criminal activity in Massachusetts!) On a serious note, though, this post is not meant to encourage readers to smoke marijuana simply because of the change in law. Rather, it is meant as a bit of guidance as to what the changes in the law mean.

January 2, 2009 at 4:02 am Leave a comment

Happy New Year from Legal.Now!

It’s the new year. Everyone has New Year’s resolutions – and we at Legal.Now are no different. So here are our resolutions – may each and every single one come to pass before 2009 is out!

1. An end to federal raids on law-abiding medicinal marijuana patients.
Under Barack Obama’s administration, this is easily the most significant and most 
accomplishable change we can expect this year. Obama has already promised to end federal 
raids of law-abiding medicinal marijuana patients, and with enough pressure from activists, he
can effect this change without any loss in political capital.


2. Proper enforcement of ‘lowest priority’ laws in districts such as Santa Cruz and Missoula County.
While ‘lowest priority’ laws are certainly commendable, reports such as the one released last month in Missoula County leave reason to doubt that they are actually being followed. When voters speak and legislation is enacted, law enforcement has an obligation to follow the legislation.
3. Successful decriminalization in Massachusetts.
Huh? Didn’t they vote on this just two months ago? Well, yes, but just because a law is on the books doesn’t mean anything actually changes.  As far as I am concerned, ‘success’ in Massachusetts will mean at least three things:
1. The law will not be repealed.
2. Violators will be charged with the appropriate offense (ie, not charged with intent to distribute when the real offense is clearly posession of a few grams in a single bag).
3. There are no negative consequences to the law (such as a sudden spike in violent crime).
4. The media does not portray the law unfavorably.
I am not particularly worried about #3, because every study shows that marijuana use is not connected to violent crime in any way. (Sale and traffiking is another matter). As for the media, while they have not been reporting the facts as faithfully as one would like, they have not been overly biased against the law either. Thus, I would expect that the media will slightly over-emphasize the possibility of negative ramifications, but not any more than they normally do. In all, as long as Massachusetts residents put enough pressure on the legislature not to repeal the law and there is enough pressure on the judicial side to enforce the law fairly, I think that the new law will be a successs.
As you can see, with these three resolutions, we have our work cut out for us, but all three are within the range of possibility. If you have any further ideas for resolutions, contact us, so that we may take proper action.
Happy new year to all!

January 1, 2009 at 3:51 am Leave a comment

Massachusetts Officials Try to Circumvent New Law

In just two days, Question 2, which decriminalizes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in Massachusetts, takes effect. Under the new law, the violation is a ticketable, but not arrestable, offense. Police may fine offenders $100 and confiscate the marijuana, but offenders face no criminal record and no jail time.

Already, officials are trying to circumvent the new law, and the latest proposal notes that the new law allows for additional town bylaws. State officials are encouraging towns to pass bylaws to outlaw smoking marijuana in public. The problem? They are considering making this a misdemeanor offense, effectively recriminalizing the substance that 65% of the state – and every town except three – voted to decriminalize. 
NECN has decent coverage of the story.
What they fail to mention is that, depending on how the new bylaws are worded, police may be able to arrest people for possession in public places, arguing that the offender is possessing the drug in public, even if he or she is not smoking.
If your city or town is considering passing such a law, write to your local officials urging them not to recriminalize posession. In your letter, be sure to mention:
1. The percent of voters in your town that supported Question 2.
2. That public smoking, if even punishable, should not be considered a criminal offense.
3. That the fines for criminal offenses are paid to the state, whereas the fines for a civil offense are paid to the town. (This means that, if towns pass bylaws recriminalizing possession, they are robbing themselves of the revenue from fines).

December 31, 2008 at 5:34 pm Leave a comment


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