Drug Policy

The Freedom to Say Stupid Things About Marijuana

|

District attorneys in Massachusetts are gearing up to oppose Question 2, an initiative on the November ballot that would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by an adult a citable offense akin to a traffic violation. They call their group the Coalition for Safe Streets, because God knows what would happen if all those vicious pot smokers were allowed to remain at large. But the Question 2 campaign, a.k.a. the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP), says the prosecutors broke the law in their eagerness to defend it:

The Campaign Finance Law prohibits a ballot question committee from accepting any contribution or making any expenditure until it files a statement of organization with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance….The Coalition for Safe Streets did not file for organization until Sept. 5, 2008, but they started accepting contributions in July 2008 and started spending funds with an expenditure of $21,000 to [the P.R. firm] O'Neill and Associates on Aug. 21, 2008.

CSMP's Whitney Taylor tells the Boston Herald, "This was an attempt to keep their organization as covert as they could for as long a possible." Which is probably true, and it would be nice if law enforcement officials followed the law and played by the rules that constrain their opponents. But I'm not a big fan of using campaign finance restrictions to beat up on people for exercising their freedom of speech, so I have trouble cheering CSMP's demand for a criminal investigation. Even more problematic is the committee's claim that the Massachusetts District Attorney Association violated a state law that says "no person shall publish or cause to be published in any letter, circular, advertisement, poster or in any other writing any false statement in relation to any question submitted to the voters, which statement is designed to affect the vote on said question." Again, it would be nice if both sides in a campaign told the truth, but it's hard to see how a law against misrepresenting a ballot initiative can be squared with the First Amendment (or with the Massachusetts Constitution's promise that "the right of free speech shall not be abridged").

These allegations should in any case be unnecessary, given how lame the arguments mustered by Question 2's opponents are:

"This is not your father's marijuana of 20 or 30 years ago," [Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe] said. He said marijuana now is far more potent, and contains substances designed to addict the user.

Such as? Note that O'Keefe is implicitly conceding that THC, marijuana's main active ingredient, is not addictive by itself. So it's a bit of a puzzle why he's so concerned about increased potency.

I noted the decriminalization initiative last fall. (Marijuana expert Lester Grinspoon, who had qualms about the initiative back then, is now on board as a supporter.) I addressed the not-your-father's-marijuana argument in a column last June.

Advertisement

NEXT: Three-Parent Families

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. and contains substances designed to addict the user.

    Is he saying someone’s been adding tobacco to it?

    Yeah, let’s get right on this problem.

  2. But I’m not a big fan of using campaign finance restrictions to beat up on people for exercising their freedom of speech

    I agree, except the DAs wouldn’t hesitate for a second to use CF law against CSMP if they could. So fuck them.

  3. Why? Is it really all about having the biggest budget possible for your office, so you can exert control over as many unneeded underlings as possible? I’d think prosecutors would love to get nuisance cases off of the dockets in order to focus on real crimes.

    Never mind, I figured it out now. The arrest/conviction ratio looks way better when you have these slam-dunk crimes to pump up the stats. Fucking pigs.

  4. Good thing so much law enforcement time & money is spent on those eeevil weedsmokers, since Wall Street has no problems at all…

    To be serious, the really evil part of this is that these days theft from these supposedly non productive people constitutes a good deal of law enforcement’s budget.

  5. Could somebody find whatever stray bold tag is messing up the page and destroy it?

  6. FUCK EM! FUCK EM!
    FUCK THEM

    I am so salivating at the prospect of ending the War On Drugs. I’ve seen so few political victories. Legalizing pot would be HUGE. We’re a long way from there. But the way the drug warriors are saying stupid shit, and the success of ballot initiatives, we’re gaining ground.

  7. I think we’re missing something really positive here:

    [District attorneys in Massachusetts opposing Question 2] call their group the Coalition for Safe Streets

    The rhetoric they’re trying to use to keep marijuana illegal has shifted to the point where they think the best argument they have is unsafe driving by marijuana users. They are really on their last legs.

  8. @ BakedPenquin

    I’m not sure that’s what their argument is; I think that it’s that there would be a lot more violent gun battles between pot dealers on the streets, plus you’d have potheads beating up kids for their lunch money to buy dope. And yes, people too busy trying to roll joints and text message at the same time running over people or accidentally setting their cell phones on fire while trying to talk on a phattie.

  9. “no person shall publish or cause to be published in any letter, circular, advertisement, poster or in any other writing any false statement in relation to any question submitted to the voters, which statement is designed to affect the vote on said question.”

    So you are complaining about the constitutionality of a law to protect people from fraud?

    I thought that fraud was one of the areas where government intervention was allowed for the Libertarians.

  10. NeonCat – good point, I was restricting my thoughts as to what pot could feasibly do in the world of reality; the drug warriors don’t suffer from such restrictions.

  11. The War on Drugs – Stupid and evil.

    What’s the matter guys? Afraid you won’t be able to bust those young punks in the park anymore? Y’know, the dark ones.

  12. I am going to go off on a tangent here, but frankly what the fuck is a group called the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association doing engaging in political advocacy in any event?

    If they want to call themselves the Coalition of Assholes Who Happen to Be District Attorneys, I would be fine with that. But organizing themselves in this way implies that they are taking a political position as part of their official duties as prosecutors of the law, and that should be forbidden. They may as well be sending out mailers on court letterhead telling people to vote against the initiative.

  13. Fluffy,
    Good point. It comes up often in marijuana ballot initiatives.

  14. I don’t understand their mindset even remotely. I hope it passes, even though I’ve never smoked marijuana.

    I’ll certainly be voting for it.

  15. I’m not sure that’s what their argument is; I think that it’s that there would be a lot more violent gun battles between pot dealers on the streets

    Most property crime and violent crime is drug related. The WOD keeps us safe.

    To be serious, the really evil part of this is that these days theft from these supposedly non productive people constitutes a good deal of law enforcement’s budget.

    Asset forfeiture is a valuable weapon in the war on drugs.

    I am so salivating at the prospect of ending the War On Drugs. I’ve seen so few political victories. Legalizing pot would be HUGE.

    Cannot happen, international treaties require worldwide drug prohibition.

    A drug free world, we can do it!

  16. My precious Juanita, I’ve missed you so.

    Love feels no burden,
    thinks nothing of trouble,
    attempts what is above its strength,
    pleads no excuse of impossibility…
    It is therefore able to undertake all things,
    and it completes many things,
    and warrants them to take effect,
    where he who does not love would faint and lie down.
    Love is watchful and sleeping, slumbereth not.
    Though weary, it is not tired;
    though pressed, it is not straitened;
    though alarmed, it is not confounded…

  17. What about “legal” drugs? Lortabs, for instance.

  18. Yes, everyone. I know she is a troll. But I can’t help myself.

  19. Yes, everyone. I know she is a troll. But I can’t help myself.

    You take that back! Juanita is not a troll. She’s an internet Goddess.

  20. The previous was me. That Remember Me box can bite you in the ass when you get righteous about insults to your paramour.

  21. contains substances designed to addict the user

    By who? God?

  22. The DA’s have been big time lying. Since they are public officials and it is an election, I think it does border on criminal. But what is even more bothersome is that nobody in the media is questioning them on their BS. For instance, they say a first time cannabis arrest is sealed automatically and does not show on the CORI. That’s a lie, I got caught with one joint of medical cannabis and I do have a CORI. Arrested for no other crime.

    And then they go out and campaign on a Wendesday afternoon on the taxpayer dime? Forget putting away rapists, the war on cannabis is at risk, all useless hacks call to action!

  23. J sub D,

    I REPUDIATE NOTHING!!!

    *props to SugarFree for the above phrase*

  24. Yes, invented by god. Intelligent design.

  25. Cannot happen, international treaties require worldwide drug prohibition.

    Forbidden things have a secret charm.

    A drug free world, we can do it!

    One who is allowed to sin, sins less.

  26. J sub D,

    I REPUDIATE NOTHING!!!

    *props to SugarFree for the above phrase*

    The village green at dawn then, knave. My second will contact yours.

  27. If the DAs break the law, who prosecutes them?

  28. J sub D,

    I shall recover my honor, sir! Your death will go without mention or burial.

    *takes gloves off, slaps J sub D*

  29. This may not be your father’s marijuana, but I’ll have you know my dad always has killer weed, and has done so since the 70s.

  30. Damn, every post Juanita makes seems to be a classic these days.

  31. Surprise Surprise a lawyer is against decriminalizing pot. How much income does defending potheads rack up for the trial lawyer assoc. Probably not as much as the bankers make from laundering the money from illegal trade but its still not chump change

  32. “Surprise Surprise a lawyer is against decriminalizing pot. How much income does defending potheads rack up for the trial lawyer assoc. Probably not as much as the bankers make from laundering the money from illegal trade but its still not chump change”

    The war on some drugs will end when the lawyers, who knowingly defend international drug thugs, the bankers and investment houses, which launder the proceeds, and the corrupt LEO’s, all do the perp walk, until then, it makes too much money for the right people.

  33. I’m not a big fan of using campaign finance restrictions to beat up on people for exercising their freedom of speech, so I have trouble cheering CSMP’s demand for a criminal investigation.

    I have no trouble at all. If the law is on the books, then it needs to be appled consistently, and not selectively.

  34. “I am going to go off on a tangent here, but frankly what the fuck is a group called the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association doing engaging in political advocacy in any event?”

    They are defending their jobs and market share. And to do so, they are, in fact, lying their faces off about what the initiave says.

  35. “Most property crime and violent crime is drug related.”

    That’s because the shit is illegal, which drives up its price on the black market. How mcuh property crime and violent crime these days is caused by alcohol (as compared to during alcohol prohibition)?

    “The WOD keeps us safe.”

    Bullshit. It keeps drug traffickers rich and violent (as necessary to protect their market), lots of state and federal government employees working, and lucrative corruption alive on an international level.

  36. Jacob’s blog post largely missed the point.

    Having district attorneys and other law-enforcement officials speaking out against the decrim initiative isn’t just a question of free speech — it’s also a question of how they should be spending their time while on the job.

    Massachusetts taxpayers expect their police to be preventing crime and enforcing the law, and the taxpayers expect their district attorneys to be prosecuting violations of the law. These are full-time jobs.

    Would it be acceptable if prosecutors and police were to determine they’d rather spend all of their time campaigning for Obama, against U.S. Sen. John Kerry, for or against various state legislators, and against the marijuana initiative? Of course not.

    And, in so doing, would it be acceptable for them to lie in the process? Of course not.

    These “law enforcement” officials are free to use their First Amendment rights, but only in the evenings and weekends. During regular business hours, they must do their job and not get entangled in campaigns. If “law enforcement” officials aren’t doing their jobs, their bosses — the taxpayers — have a right to sanction them now … and even fire them someday.

    You’d do the same if you were running a store, hired a cashier, but found that the cashier was spending multiple hours a day down the street campaigning.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.