Posts tagged ‘Question 2’

Does Marijuana Legalization Stand a Chance in Massachusetts?

From Phishhook:

I hate to be all Sobering Suzie, buuut:

This bill has no chance of getting a favorable report from a committee, let alone passing both the House and the Senate. 

In Massachusetts, any citizen can file a bill through their local legislator. If the legislator agrees with the bill, they can file it as a normal bill, solicit cosponsors, write letters and provide testimony to committees, contact Leadership, etc. If the legislator does NOT agree with the bill, they can file it “By Request.” When a bill is filed by request, it means that they do not agree with the bill, and are solely filing it on behalf of their constituent. 

This bill was filed By Request — in the House and in the Senate (it’s the same bill in both, filed for the same, single community member). 

Neither bill has a single cosponsor, and neither the Representative nor the Senator who filed the respective House and Senate bills will do anything to advocate for them. The whole process of allowing citizens to file bills through their local electeds is largely a facade. Bills filed By Request NEVER even get out of committee. It will be burried in a study order next March, and will die with thousands of other bills.

Now, on the other hand, if there was ever an appetite for a bill like this in MA, it is right now. The state is overwhelmingly liberal (the republican party comprises a little bit more than 10% of the legislature), and needs badly new revenue. However, if this IS something that could happen in MA, it won’t be these bills that do it. 

But hey, at least it was decriminalized this past November with a ballot initiative (2-1 no less).

The anonymous poster who left this message has a point, but I’m not convinced that it’s a lost cause. Keep in mind that, just a few weeks before Question 2 passed, police officials were launching a smear campaign and the polled support had dropped by 30 points in some demographics. And in January 2008, who would even have predicted that Massachusetts would have enough signatures on the measure to put it on the ballot, let alone support it by 65%?

I look at Sobering Suzie’s post as challenge rather than a blockade. It’s clear to me that, if any two states can legalize marijuana, California and Massachusetts are certainly well-equipped. Both have very progressive laws regarding marijuana, both have decriminalized possession to some extent, and both have high rates of marijuana use. (It should be stated that this last point is probably a reason that Question 2 passed more than it is a result of it).

It is possible to pressure officials into taking action on a bill such as this. The key is to make them realize that their constituents’ support rests on it. In some sense, it is also pretty easy to get this point across to local officials. So, while I think that the fate of the bill is by no means certain, if we put pressure on legislators, it is still very much in the cards.

March 28, 2009 at 11:02 am 1 comment

Massachusetts Seeks to Legalize, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana

California’s got company. Not two months after Question 2 went into effect, decriminalizing marijuana, Massachusetts may legalize the marijuana industry – subject to a tax, of course. Senate Bill 1801 and House Bill 2929 have been introduced. 

65% of Massachusetts voters supported the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in November. Depending on what measure you use, Massachusetts is one of the smokiest states (this chart measures marijuana use in the past year, placing Massachusetts at #5).

NORML has very clear letters that you can send to your elected officials. You can send the letters using NORML’s automated feature, but for your convenience, they are also reproduced below. (Remember to specify House Bill 2929 or Senate Bill 1801 in the letter, and remember that you can also contact your state legislators using the link at the top of the page).

 

I’m writing to urge your support for House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801. This measure seeks to tax and regulate the use of marijuana by adults age 21 and over. If approved this measure would: 1) Raise tens of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue for the state of Massachusetts; 2) Restrict access to marijuana to those under age 21; 3) Improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to focus on more serious crimes; and 4) Institute reasonable regulation consistent with the state and federal constitution. In November, 65 percent of voters in Massachusetts endorsed a statewide initiative reclassifying marijuana possession as a fine-only offense under state law. Passage of House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801 would bring greater control to this law by imposing proper state restrictions on the sale and use of marijuana by adults. House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801 is a fiscally conservative, common sense proposal that seeks to bring control to Massachusetts’ untaxed, unregulated marijuana market. I look forward to hearing from you that you will support House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801.

March 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm 2 comments

Help Connecticut Decriminalize Marijuana

Connecticut is ready. As reported earlier, a groundbreaking poll demonstrated that Connecticut voters support the decriminalization of marijuana – perhaps even more than Massachusetts voters did before Question 2 passed. (I say ‘perhaps’ because there is some room for polling error, and the comparison depends on whether you use the lukewarm polls three weeks before the election or the smashing, 65% support on election day).

But that’s all nitpicking. Connecticut is considering Senate Bill 349, which would create in Connecticut a mirror policy to the one newly implemented in Massachusetts. If you would like to see Connecticut decriminalize marijuana, contact your state senator and ask them to support the bill. NORML has a good form letter available. Here is an alternative:

Dear Senator ___________ (name of Senator)

A recent study published by Quinnipiac University demonstrated that 58% of Connecticut voters support using fines, rather than arrests, to enforce minor marijuana possession laws. Thirteen other states have enacted similar decriminalization laws without an increase in marijuana use.

The Connecticut Law Review Commission has published a report stating ‘The legislature should review and further consider as a strategy option establishing the offense of infraction for adults twenty-one years of age or older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana.’ Senate Bill 349 is an opportunity to enact appropriate penalties for marijuana possession while reducing state expenses. I urge you to adjust our marijuana policies to reflect more approriately the gravity of the offense by supporting Senate Bill 349.

Sincerely,

______________ (your name)

The bill was introduced by Senators Martin Looney and Toni Harp.

March 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm 1 comment

Connecticut Voters Support Decriminalization

It’s not just those crazy Bay State folk. According to a poll by Quinnipiac University, voters support decriminalization of less than an ounce of marijuana 58% to 37%.

This isn’t quite the margin by which Question 2 passed in Massachusetts, but the majority of those over 65 years old support the proposal in Connecticut. By contrast, polls in Massachusetts within the month before Question 2 passed showed only 40% support for the initiative. 

Martin Looney, who is the Senate Majority Leader in Connecticut, introduced legislation that would effect this very policy. Contact your state senator (if you live in Connecticut) and urge him/her to support this legislation.

March 11, 2009 at 9:30 pm 1 comment

Montana Seeks to Undercut Massachusetts

…or that’s how it would seem, if one took a free-market approach to marijuana law reform.

With House Bill 541, Montana could become the next state to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Unlike Massachusetts (and other states that seeks to copy Massachusetts’s new law), however, the fine for possession in Montana would be reduced to $50. For contrast, the current fine in Massachusetts for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is $100. It seems like people might finally be starting to listen to the Shafer Commission after all!

The Montana House Judiciary Committee will be holding testimonies for this bill on Tuesday, March 10th. Check your representative and see if he or she is a member of this committee (the list of names is at the bottom, after the list of scheduled hearings).

Even if your represesentative does not sit on the committee, it is still important to contact him or her to voice your support. A sample letter is below (though if your representative sits on the committee, it would be better to adapt the letter to a script and place a call before Tuesday):

Dear Mr./Ms. _______________

Thirteen other states, including Mississippi, Ohio, Alaska, and Nevada, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana with no increase in marijuana use. Decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana would save money in the state budget. 

I urge you to support House Bill 541, which seeks to reduce the punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The current penalties are far too strict, as even the Shafer Commission concluded that criminal penalties for posession are superfluous and ineffective.

I hope that you support House BIll 541 and ensure that it becomes state law in Montana.

Sincerely,

 

March 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm Leave a comment

Urge Martha Coakley to Block Town Bylaws

As the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley has the power to block town bylaws that attempt to recriminalize marijuana (by adding increased penalties and arrest for public use). This is a direct attempt to violate of the will of the voters – 65% of whom voted specifically to decrimalize possession.

This letter is ready to be printed and mailed to the address below. Feel free to write your own instead if you so choose.

Attorney General Martha Coakley
100 Cambridge Street

Boston, MA 02108

Dear Madame Coakley,

Like 65% of our state, I voted in favor of Question 2. Like 65% of our state, I believe that possession of small amounts of marijuana should be punished like a minor traffic violation.

Question 2 has been in effect for two months, and there has been no sudden spike in the public use of marijuana. The $100 fine – already a hefty sum for many – has proven to be enough of a deterrent.

I strongly urge you not to support any town bylaw that attempts to levy an additional punishment for public use of marijuana. When I voted for a $100 fine for possession of marijuana, I intended this fine to be the only punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Smoking marijuana in public is already illegal – punishable by $100 and confiscation of the substance – and that should be the only punishment. Some proposals for new laws include fines of up to $300, which increases the total fine to $400, and some even include arrest. I consider these proposals to be subversion of the will of the nearly 2,000,000 Massachusetts voters who cast their ballots in favor of Question 2 this fall.

Thank you for your help with this new law, and I hope that you take the intent of the voters into consideration regarding new town bylaws.

Sincerely,

March 3, 2009 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

Reefer Madness Hits the Stage!

For anybody who happens to live in Michigan:

Director Phil Simmons calls it “absurd, over-the-top, no question about it.”

Simmons is leading an Eastern Michigan stage production of “Reefer Madness,” a spoof of the 1936 film that became a camp classic for its dire warnings about the use of marijuana.

“The gentlemen who have written the show use the same situations as the movie, a lot of the same dialogue, same characters and turned it into camp, spoof and parody,” Simmons said. “It is, without a doubt, even after 20 years in New York, one of the funniest things I’ve seen.”

The show is yet another sign that cultural forces are moving the correct direction. Still, it’s rather sad to poke fun at Reefer Madness when some of the propaganda being touted today is no better.

(For the record: in my opinion – and I was in Massachusetts for the two weeks after Question 2 went into effect – I noticed no more people smoking pot than before. I did, however, notice far more police cars driving with their sirens blaring. Make of that what you will).

January 28, 2009 at 11:45 pm 2 comments

Just in Case You Forgot, Marijuana is Still Illegal!

Such is the entire subject of an article in the Salem News, which quotes Superintendent William Cameron reminding everyone in Massachusetts that ‘bring[ing] any controlled substance to school or a school-sponsored event… is an occasion for a student to be expelled.’ He continues, ‘Don’t mistake a civil penalty on the street as something of little consequence in school.’

One need not only imagine the level of fear regarding this issue – this article is only one of hundreds I have read in the last month which quote officials of all levels reminding students that yes, marijuana is still illegal, even venturing so far as to write new legislation to ‘make sure it stays illegal’.

I understand where that last initiative is coming from. It’s the same sentiment that drove voters in Florida this November to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage despite the fact that several laws banning gay marriage in the state already existed (for example, Florida Statute 741.212, which stipulates that ‘For purposes of interpreting any state statute or rule, the term “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the term “spouse” applies only to a member of such a union.’).

Except it’s not the same. In Florida, the measure was a desperate attempt by opponents of gay marriage to preserve what they already have. Here, it is an even more desperate attempt to keep what is being taken away – not by any proponent of drug policy reform, but by the evolution of society.

January 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Are You Cheating Yourself of 280 Joints?

According to Lt. Maguire of the Weston Police Department, ‘One ounce of marijuana is the equivalent of 200 to 300 joints’. (Wicked Local)

I’m no expert, but if a joint is 1-2 grams, and there are 28.3 grams in an ounce… then, well, it stands to reason that 28/2 = 300.

The state of Massachusetts urged towns to pass local ordinances banning public use of marijuana . Some towns are considering adding additional fines, whereas others, as urged by the state, want to make public use an arrestable, criminal offense.

The danger with the second possibility is that things could go the way of New York, where the first two counts of small possession are civil citations, but possession of any amount which is ‘burning or open to public view’ is charged as if it were possession of more than an ounce (a misdemeanor).

Advocates of the proposed laws argue that this is just a ‘tweak’ to make sure that smoking marijuana in public is illegal. They seem to have missed the fact that smoking marijuana anywhere is still illegal. Next, I expect them to pass laws banning smoking a joint with your left hand, or with your right, or while standing on one foot, or while wearing the color blue, or… you get the idea.

They also seem to have conveniently forgotten that smoking any substance in a public building is already illegal by state law as well:

“Smoking” or “smoke”, [is] the lighting of a cigar, cigarette, pipe or other tobacco product or possessing a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or other tobacco or non-tobacco product designed to be combusted and inhaled.

Call me crazy, but I think that smoking a joint would count as ‘posessing a lighted non-tobacco product designed to be combusted or inhaled’.

Several towns are following the requests of the state and are proposing laws to ban public use – or even ban possession (again).

(more…)

January 25, 2009 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment


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