Drug Policy

Massachusetts Is for Decriminalized Marijuana Lovers

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They still want an income tax (idiots) but 65 percent of Bay State residents have used the ballot process to decriminalize amounts of pot under an ounce. You'll get civil penalties and up to a $100 fine once the law goes into effect.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) hails the vote thusly: This is "the first time in history that a decriminalization initiative appeared on any statewide ballot, and voters passed it by what appears to be an overwhelming majority."

MPP has a great chart of state and local initiatives and the outcomes (some good, some not so good) here.

NEXT: Stay Classy, Ralph Nader

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  1. So, what opportunities are there (legitimate and otherwise) for the Massachusetts WOD-Industrial Complex to frustrate this ballot initiative? How long will it be until someone caught with half an ounce on them will actually be fined $100 rather than jailed?

  2. some good news, but as rc mentions, how this actually gets treated by state and local law enforcement is another issue.

  3. I’m guessing this will have no effect on prosecutions by federal law enforcement under federal law. Therefore, it may have only symbolic value.

  4. One ounce is a pretty good amount. I didn’t realize the decriminalization went so far. Last I checked, that would be a felony in my state (over 20 grams).

  5. Can I move to Mass. and open a store selling weed, keeping no more than an ounce in the store at all times? People can come in and leave their cell #, and I’ll call them when their ounce comes in. Will Obama’s robin hood tax plan apply to me?

  6. I can’t understand how people who decriminalize would not just take the extra step for legalization. The difference in revenue generated from fines vs. taxed sales has got to be astronomical. I know many time I have read that to tax the state of California ALONE would generate over $1 billion dollars. Still though, glad to see a step in the right direction.

  7. Kudos to the citizens af Massachusetts. You got one right anyway. Don’t think that this ameliorates the continued presence of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry in the Senate.

  8. It continually blows my mind that up to 100 grams is a $100 fine in Ohio.

  9. But don’t fear, the feds will still put you away for life as an evil drug trafficker!

  10. Stay classy Nick.

  11. Unless you are a libertarian true believer (NTTAWWT) there are plenty of good reasons to vote to keep the income tax. Voting for it does not make anyone an idiot.

    Hell, there are reasons for fiscal conservativse (although not pure libertarians) to vote No on 1. But I am sure your remark calling Massholes idiots is justified. And well thought out.

  12. Economic panic surely worked against the measure. I think a similar ballot measure to repeal the state income tax got around 45% of the vote a few years ago. Just bad timing.

    Anon

  13. More details here. And I have no idea how enforcement of Q2 will go, but the existence of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is surely a positive sign. I imagine the group consists of at least two people, right?

    Anon

  14. If the state income tax transfers money from 35% of the population to the other 65%, what kind of ballot result would you expect to see?

  15. It doesn’t though, bubba. It transfer money from the majority of the population mostly to public projects that benefit everyone, waste and government employees. Most of it isn’t a rich vs poor sort of thing.

  16. Opponents of Question 1, also outspent supporters 10 to 1. Though on Question 2, opponents got a lot of free press as well.

  17. Notable opponents (of Question 2): Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Senator John F. Kerry, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, former mayor Raymond L. Flynn, district attorneys throughout the state, the Boston TenPoint Coalition, and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

    Oh and by the way a huge FU to these guys

  18. libertarian democrat: of course it’s rich vs poor or else it would be a sales tax.

  19. What I mean is that the money isn’t really being transferred via services. For the most part, value is being destroyed. The amount of waste in MA is absolutely amazing.

  20. libertarian democrat: of course wealth is being transferred. If you take more from the rich then from the poor you are changing the balance. It would be faster if you gave it to the poor, but you can burn it and achieve the same.

  21. I’m one of thosee idiots who voted no on 1 because I really like things like well-maintained roads, decent schools, state parks, and all sorts of other stuff my tax dollars fund. The anti-tax people never made a realistic and compelling case for how we could have this stuff and eat our no tax cake at the same time. Oh sure, everyone KNOWS there’s a ton of waste in the state government and everyone understands how wonderful it would be to “eliminate all wasteful spending” but when it actually comes down to specifics – where the waste is and how it will be eliminated and how that will affect everyone, those details seem to somehow never be discussed.

    We are also close enough to New Hampshire to see exactly how a lack of income tax works – or doesn’t work – and quite honestly, it’s frightening.

    For all of the glorious “small government is beautiful” and “no taxes” idealism out there, the fact is that people WANT THINGS from their government and the majority of us Massholes are smart enough to realize that we all have to pay for them, one way or another.

  22. adrian,

    No. Sorry. Person A has $20. Person B has $15. Person C is a thief that steals $10 from person A and $5 from person B.

    While A and B both end up looking similar, the wealth has only be transferred to C.

    Changing the balance between two parties is not necessarily a transfer of wealth, it’s changing the balance. They may seem similar, but they are different concepts. Person A and B can both suffer if the balances are changed this way. If C gives the money to B, and B benefits, that is a transfer.

  23. And the original comment I was responding to:

    If the state income tax transfers money from 35% of the population to the other 65%, what kind of ballot result would you expect to see?

    If that combined with my previous comment doesn’t clarify the distinction I am making, I don’t know what will.

  24. We are also close enough to New Hampshire to see exactly how a lack of income tax works – or doesn’t work – and quite honestly, it’s frightening.

    Yeah, we don’t even have any roads in New Hampshire. Or schools. The horrors of no income tax are countless.

    It has always been my observation that the roads get worse upon crossing the NH/MA border (going south).

    Good job on the decrim vote, though.

  25. Zeb –

    From what I understand, many of your towns, especially the small ones, are spening the vast majority of their budgets on schools, leaving a rapidly diminishing pool of money left to cover all of the other stuff and the long term trend indicates that this is going to continue to be a growing problem as education costs continue to rise.

    If this is true, then it seems to me you;ve got two choices: continue to hav edecent, well-funded scholls and an ever diminishing host of other public resources and services, or cut school spending and have some public services. If you go the second route, with all of the the government mandates for schools , special education, etc. it seems to me that you’re going to have to cut much of the “good stuff” out of the schools – the things that make your schools decent.

    Either that or you continue to increase license fees, service fees, etc. – nickle and diming the citizens to death.

  26. I hate to pee on the parade but two things need to remembered about the MA legislature:

    1. They have a general sense of contempt for the voters and will overturn an initiative whenever they feel like it (the voters deserve this contempt since they never seem to vote out the congresscriters for doing so).

    2. They have a long history of felatiating law enforcement officers (although the recent end to the police welfare program known as requiring private parties to hire off duty cops to direct traffic is a promising sign).

    In other words, don’t be surprised if this gets overturned, will of the voters be damned.

  27. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) hails the vote thusly: This is “the first time in history that a decriminalization initiative appeared on any statewide ballot, and voters passed it by what appears to be an overwhelming majority.”

    Anyone know what the pre-election polling on this was? I would not be surprised if people are much more likely to support this on a secret ballot as opposed to a phone poll.

  28. …but they threw the drug warriors one hell of a bone:

    “As used herein, ‘possession of one ounce or less of marihuana’ includes possession of one ounce or less of marihuana or tetrahydrocannabinol and having cannabinoids or cannibinoid metabolites in the urine, blood, saliva, sweat, hair, fingernails, toe nails or other tissue or fluid of the human body.”

  29. “…or cannibinoid metabolites in the urine, blood, saliva, sweat, hair, fingernails, toe nails or other tissue or fluid of the human body.”

    So much for the for the right to not voluntarily incriminate ones self before a LEO, now they can check you out for those pesky metabolytes without your consent, nice.

  30. “For all of the glorious “small government is beautiful” and “no taxes” idealism out there, the fact is that people WANT THINGS from their government and the majority of us Massholes are smart enough to realize that we all have to pay for them, one way or another.”

    This is correct: People are children who want the state to take care of them and give them things, like mommy and daddy.

    Never mind that the money’s actually going towards double and triple pensions, junkets, Deval’s offices in Beijing (!!) and Washington, curtains, cadillacs, etc. Throw the kiddies a Snickers bar and they’ll shut up about even the most bald-faced corruption. Just threaten to defund schools, police stations, fire stations, etc. instead of closing the Beijing office and shutting down multiple pensions for forty-year-old bureaucrats: The kiddies will think exactly what they’re told to think exactly when they’re told to think it, and then vote the way they’re told to vote.

    Idiots indeed.

    BTW, Eryk is right: The legislature is very likely to ignore the pot vote in favor of the self-interest of police and prosecutors who demand the jobs and forfeiture assets that come with criminalizing simple possession.

  31. That’s right…all of this and legal gay marriage, too. Though we’re not always the progressive oasis we purport to be, MA occasionally gets things right. Soon enough, other states will get a whiff and want to join the party. One-party governance may not be ideal, but it sometimes allows us to overlook those things which divide us the most. Et tu, red states?

  32. It’s possible that the state legislature will vote to overturn the result, but I wouldn’t count on it (and I wouldn’t count on the governor’s signature, either). My sense is most folks here in Massachusetts are very surprised at the pot question’s winning margin; I personally thought it would likely pass, but I expected a close vote, and suspect most other Bay Staters reckoned likewise. So, I’m hopeful that the prominence and seeming unanimity of the Big Public Official Stance against decriminalization flows from the fact that most public officials in Massachusetts didn’t realize their position contradicts that of the vast majority of Massachusetts voters.

  33. So now that “liberal” MA has legalized pot, does that mean that I’ve become a liberal?

    I’ve always been worried since I didn’t agree with a damn thing “conservative” GWB did in office. But I didn’t know I had actually become liberal.

  34. I’ve lived as an adult in both Texas and Massachusetts, so I’ve experienced the tax regimes in both.

    Mass has one of the lowest average property tax rates in the country. Texas has one of the highest.

    Mass has a 5% state sales tax with exemptions for food and articles of clothing under $100. Texas’ state sales tax is 7.5% (I think) with allowances for county-level sales taxes. In Bexar County, the total sales tax was, if I recall correctly, 8.75%, with no food or clothing exemptions.

    Mass has a flat income tax rate of 5.3%. In terms of AGI determination, it pretty much follows federal deductions. It also allows for a deduction for renters similiar to the deduction for mortgage interest. Texas has no state income tax.

    Usage fees in Texas are much higher than in Mass. Registering an out-of-state car and getting a new license were roughly double, as an example. Many more roads are toll roads.

    All in all, I feel like, as a solidly middle-class person, my overall tax burden was roughly equivalent between the two. The only difference was the methodology of collection and whether it was done at the state, agency, county, or city level.

    Question #1 in MA would have eliminated the state income tax without any provisos for partially offsetting lost revenues. Property taxes in MA are fixed at a 2.5% maximum increase per year, unless the town’s voters override the rates (say, for a school construction bond). There is no truly functional county government in Mass, no unincorporated land, and no county-level taxation methodologies – everything is done on a city/town or state level.

    If question #1 had passed, either sales taxes or usage fees would have exploded. State and governments are going to fund themselves no matter what. Taking away one methodology for raising revenues will only cause them to be raised another way.

  35. “”””As used herein, ‘possession of one ounce or less of marihuana’ includes possession of one ounce or less of marihuana or tetrahydrocannabinol and having cannabinoids or cannibinoid metabolites in the urine, blood, saliva, sweat, hair, fingernails, toe nails or other tissue or fluid of the human body.””””

    Idiots? Maybe. I’d say it depends on the alternative. MA would still need the revenue so they would get it someplace else.

    “””””As used herein, ‘possession of one ounce or less of marihuana’ includes possession of one ounce or less of marihuana or tetrahydrocannabinol and having cannabinoids or cannibinoid metabolites in the urine, blood, saliva, sweat, hair, fingernails, toe nails or other tissue or fluid of the human body.”””””

    So if you pop positive in a drug screening at your job, do they have to call the cops?

    Also, just because it’s decriminalized doesn’t mean they won’t arrest you, just less likely. But if you get a cop that hates drugs and wants to arrest you, he can.

  36. I truly consider myself a libertarian, and I support repeal of income tax. However, can we please agree once and for all that “let’s cut taxes” isn’t a position. If you say what cuts in spending will offset that then I’ll be willing to listen.

    The roads in Mass are worse than anywhere around. NH and VT have better roads. OK, they are MUCH worse in French Canada. I guess tere’s always room for improvement.

  37. After thinking about it, I have decided that Nick looks like a mix between Javier Bardem (No country for old men) and Al Pacino (in scarface). Anyone else see it?

    Just rip off the smile from this pic and comb his hair right and you’ve got ’em.
    http://timothyzhu.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/javier_bardem.jpg

  38. Jasper may be right. Based on this morning’s news, the margin by which the question passed has motivated some in the administration to state that the legislature will not amend or repeal it. Nonetheless, there are very worrisome signs: They are now discussing the massive regulatory bureaucracy that they claim must be installed to police those found with an ounce or less of marijuana.

    Pigs always refuse to back away from the trough.

  39. Here in California, a dozen years after the passage of our Compassionate Use Act, police, sheriffs, DA’s, county supervisors, et al are still bleating about how confused they are by the law. Deceit, delay, and obfuscation have ruled the day. Mass, be ready for some Olympic class foot dragging.

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