Drug Policy

Marijuana Decriminalization in Massachusetts

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A marijuana decriminalization initiative has qualified for November's ballot in Massachusetts. The initiative would make possession of up to an ounce, currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, a civil offense with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. Pot smokers could not be arrested or jailed, and they would not have criminal records, which trigger ancillary penalties that can be far more onerous than the official punishment. NORML reports that a recent poll found supporters of the initiative outnumber opponents by 2 to 1.

Here is the website for the initiative campaign (known as the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy), which is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. Last fall I noted an argument among reformers about the initiative's potential impact.

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  1. light em up !

  2. Nice. Not that the Feds will care.

  3. Exciting news, if you’re a criminal.

  4. The more states that do this, the more the feds will have to play ball. Even the feds can’t go raiding 40+ states without massive backlash.

    I would LOVE to see some governor with huge balls order the state police to arrest DEA agents who arrest people for MJ that’s now legal in the state.

  5. I don’t see how the DEA’s involvement changes in Massachusetts because of this. I didn’t read anything about changing the penalties for larger quantities or for grow operations. They simply reduced the penalties for personal possession. The DEA doesn’t generally bust people driving with an eighth.

  6. I would LOVE to see some governor with huge balls order the state police to arrest DEA agents who arrest people for MJ that’s now legal in the state.

    Screw the governor, it would only take a sheriff.

  7. Baby steps, Pinette. First you decriminalize, and the world doesn’t go to hell. Then people start asking “why can we smoke it, but not grow it?”, and they legalize growing your own or something. And so on.

  8. How is lowering the penalty for a small amount of mj being confused with decriminalization?

  9. True fact from a political hack:

    Initiatives’ popularity always declines as the election approaches. (For some reason, people’s default position is “no.”)

    I’d love to see this sucker passed. (It’s about damn time that the most progressive state in the country stopped setting money on fire for a right-wing crusade.) But I’m afraid that a sufficiently demagogic, paranoid campaign targeted at suburban parents and senior citizens has a real chance to defeat the initiative.

  10. Baby steps, Pinette. First you decriminalize, and the world doesn’t go to hell. Then people start asking “why can we smoke it, but not grow it?”, and they legalize growing your own or something. And so on.

    From your mouth to the FSM’s ears (noodles??).

    Something tells me it aint gonna work out that way though. Still this is a small step in the right direction.

  11. How is lowering the penalty for a small amount of mj being confused with decriminalization?

    I suppose the fact that it becomes a civil penalty and not a misdemeanor and doesn’t give you a criminal record could be considered at least partially decriminalizing, no?

  12. We are a nation of laws. The law’s the law. Congress determined that marijuana has no currently accepted medical value, and is unsafe to use even under close medical supervision. If research indicates it has medical value, and it is approved by the FDA, then it will be available, by prescription only. I cannot see a powerful drug like marijuana, or any intoxicating drug ever being freely available OTC. For historical reasons alcohol is legal because it has a long history of safe use in western society, but other drugs cannot be allowed. If they were invented today, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine would be illegal, or available by prescription only, assuming they are proved safe and effective.

  13. What I’d really love to see is after this gets passed–God willing–that some depressed, rural community in Vermont or upstate New York should start growing dope. Add a forward-looking county sheriff and you could have yourself a legitimate, agricultural enterprise providing jobs and a tax-base for a resurgent community.

    Well, a guy can dream…

  14. joe,
    You’re voting for this worthy initiative, right?

  15. Something tells me it aint gonna work out that way though.

    Seeing as a sudden lifting of prohibition ain’t gonna happen at all, anything that moves us closer to sanity is progress.

  16. Seeing as a sudden lifting of prohibition ain’t gonna happen at all, anything that moves us closer to sanity is progress.

    MADD, anti-smoking crusaders, the food police …
    Learn from your enemies people.

  17. As soon as MJ is legalized, our farmers will produce so much of it that the price will crash. Then farm-state Senators will push for susidies just like corn, tobacco, and other crops.

  18. Finally, some common sense.

  19. i think thomas copied his post directly from the DEA web site. how much more government drug warrior propaganda can you spew out?

    I love this one though…

    ‘for historical reasons alcohol is legal because it has a long history of safe use in western society’

    how so? you can overdose on alcohol and die from withdraw. the same isn’t true for marijuana.

  20. I don’t hold my breath. In 2006 Massachusetts residents voted against a proposition that would let most grocery stores sell wine (not beer or liquor) by significantly increasing supply of appropriate licenses. This is wine not marijuana. Think of the children.

  21. That’s not decriminalization. Ohio, of all places, is more lenient than that. Less than 100 grams is a $100 fine here, if I remember right.

  22. Warty, your first sentence is not backed up by the other two.

    Ohio has the most liberal marijuana laws in the country.

    http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?wtm_view=&Group_ID=4557

  23. Nice. I’m going to be proud to vote for this, and pass on the news to everyone I know to make sure they do as well. I don’t know anyone personally that would take the time to vote against it even if they aren’t for it. I wish I could say I knew that my friends and family are a representative sample of MA voters, but I have no idea.

  24. I think Thomas might be yankin our chains a bit. This one is the giveaway:

    “Congress determined that marijuana has no currently accepted medical value, and is unsafe to use even under close medical supervision.”

  25. grizzly,

    I think drunk driving (which was how it was sold against that, somehow – no fucking idea) is a more scary specter than pot to most people I know. But then, they tend to be highly educated and intelligent, so they might be aware of the relative social cost of alcohol and marijuana to begin with.

  26. Right Thomas, marijuana has absolutely no history of safe use. Damn those negroes dancing with our white women!

  27. Thomas | July 11, 2008, 12:56pm | #
    We are a nation of laws. The law’s the law.

    I am da law!

  28. I’m pretty sure Thomas is related to Juanita.

  29. I’m pretty sure Thomas is related to Juanita.

    I’ve been patiently awaiting for an appearance from the love of my life. Alas, the Latina beauty has not graced me with her presence.

    🙁

  30. Wow, this is going to be on the ballot along with the initiative to abolish the state income tax. Talk about bizarro world.

  31. J sub D,

    I plan to wake up on November 8, get an iced coffee, and around 10:30 shout, “Dude! I totally spaced on the ballot initiative!”

    Of course I’m voting for it. Shoot, maybe I’ll see if I can get a yard sign.

  32. Grizzly,

    The supermarket-wine ballot initiative failed because there was a large, well-funded group of would-be-competitors (the package store owners) who funded a big ad campaign, while the proponents barely had any budget.

    I don’t think it’s going to work that way with this.

    Still, I’m not ready to predict passage.

  33. joe,

    Didnt the Boston Police Assc. also run ads against that initiative? I seem to remember that.

  34. Jordan,

    Nice pick-up!

    It’s like Zero to Libertopia in one election!

    Who says politics always sucks?

  35. Boston,

    IIRC, and I probably don’t, being objectively pro-wine, the BPA signed onto a letter from the Packie Owners’ front group, which took out an ad listing groups.

  36. Of course I’m voting for it.

    Props to joe.

    What about the income tax repeal?

  37. Hell no, RC. Why would I want to shift the tax burden down the income gradient by raising local property taxes?

    Oh. Right. From your POV, I just answered my own question. Lucky Duckies, huh?

  38. TO FREE OR NOT TO FREE?..NICE420LOVE

  39. … until the mop-topped failure hears the clank of the iron bars behind him! :-p

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