In August pollsters at Boston's Suffolk University said Question 2, a Massachusetts ballot initiative that would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a $100 civil fine, "appears all but certain to pass," with support from 72 percent of registered voters. "The public may be signaling that pursuing small-time marijuana users is a waste of taxpayer resources," said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk's Political Research Center. "This issue suggests that there is a libertarian streak in the thinking of Massachusetts voters." Last week the same pollsters found support for the measure had shrunk to 51 percent, with 32 percent of voters opposed (up from 22 percent in August). Maybe Massachusetts voters have become less libertarian in the last two months.
Or maybe, as NORML's Paul Armentano suggests, they've been paying too much attention to the cops and prosecutors behind the Coalition for Safe Streets. The group's radio ads play up the role of "international financier" George Soros in funding the initiative; allege that the failure to arrest pot smokers would "send children the message that drug use is safe and acceptable" and "make it easier for kids to get behind the wheel of a car after smoking marijuana"; and warn of "unsafe roads, increased health care costs, more crime, [and] more problems with addiction." The coalition claims "it's just common sense," which I guess is why it sees no need to offer any actual arguments connecting these outcomes to the passage of Question 2.
To back up its assertion that decriminalizing possession (but not sale) of less than an ounce of marijuana would result in "newly emboldened drug dealers," the coalition claims, "One ounce of marijuana has a street value of $600 and equates to approximately 60 individual sales." If that price estimate is based on the district attorneys' own shopping experiences, they are either connoisseurs or suckers. The estimate for the number of sales also seems to be based on an extreme assumption: that pot is sold one joint at a time. I suppose you could say everyone with an ounce of marijuana is a potential pot dealer, in the same sense that everyone with three packs of cigarettes is a potential tobacconist. More to the point, what are these pot sellers going to be "newly emboldened" to do? Sell pot, presumably. To willing buyers. Who aren't hurting anything but the sensibilities of the reformed pot smokers at the Coalition for Safe Streets.