Mass Cann/NORML’s Board of Directors resolution in support of Question 2, An Act Establishing A Sensible State Marihuana Policy
When Massachusetts enacted its first law prohibiting marijuana possession without a prescription in 1911, a miniscule minority of Bay Staters used it except in medicine. Now you can’t get a prescription, but the Federal Government estimates close to 10 percent of us over the age of 18 regularly pursue this conception of our happiness at least once a month more than that in a year, placing Massachusetts first in the nation for monthly and yearly use.
We believe marijuana prohibition is an unwholesome and unreasonable policy that has not worked if the desired result is less use and restricted availability.
We believe regulating and taxing marijuana, as we do tobacco, beer, wine and hard cider is the only policy consistent with securing to the individual the blessings of liberty promised by the state and federal constitutions as amended.We believe a yes vote on Question 2, “An Act Establishing A Sensible State Marihuana Policy” will move state policy toward constitutionality and therefore endorse it because it:
- replaces criminal penalties with forfeiture of the marijuana and a civil penalty of $100;
- ends the power, currently exercised arbitrarily, of the police to hold for bail persons captured possessing marijuana;
- encourages uniformity of enforcement by providing that the money received from the civil penalties would go to the municipality in which the offense occurred;
- ends use and possession of marijuana as grounds for state or local government entities imposing any other penalty, sanction, or disqualification, such as denying student financial aid, public housing, public financial assistance including unemployment benefits, the right to operate a motor vehicle, or the opportunity to serve as a foster or adoptive parent;
- insures parents or legal guardian would be notified of the offense when committed by a person under the age of 18;
- requires offenders under the age of 18 to perform community service and take a course on substance abuse;
- leaves intact the provisions of M.G.L. c. 119, s. 21 – 51F (Protection and Care of Children) so that parents of children below the age of seventeen who persistently refuse to obey the lawful and reasonable commands of their parents or legal guardian, resulting in said parent’s or guardian’s inability to adequately care for and protect said child shall get the services they need to hopefully raise a responsible citizen; and,
- would not affect existing laws, practices, or policies concerning operating a motor vehicle or taking other negligent, reckless, or criminal actions while under the influence of marijuana.
EXPLANATION OF OUR POSITION:When cannabis (marijuana) is enjoyed responsibly, subjecting users to penalties provides no public benefit and causes terrible injustices. For reasons of public safety, public health, economics, liberty and justice, the laws that punish responsible cannabis use are usurpations and as future Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Theophilus Parsons said in 1788 at the Debates In The Convention Of The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, On The Adoption Of The Federal Constitution:
An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet only his own fellow-citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation.
Nonetheless, we support Question 2 as a positive step toward restoring cannabis to its proper control under the Constitutions of Massachusetts and the United States of America.
The people of Massachusetts are experienced with marijuana and understand decriminalization conserves police, prosecution, judicial and probation resources, and is a sensible substitute for the currently imposed dismissal after a period of probation usually recommended by the district attorneys and imposed by the courts.
Our personal experiences explain the success of our Public Policy Questions between 2000 and 2006. It also explains the results of the 7News/Suffolk University Political Research Center poll announced last August that found, “Seventy-two percent favored the proposed law, which would replace the criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil penalty of forfeiture of the marijuana and a fine of $100.”
The opposition thunders “stay the course.” Some because they have truly succumbed to their own “reefer madness” rhetoric, while others recognize that decriminalization means the loss of power. For police officers the loss of power to arrest and hold for bail – a power currently exercised arbitrarily. Some officers do nothing to prosecute marijuana possessors unless they have committed another offense for which they have the power to arrest. These law-abiding persons may be ignored by the officer or may receive a verbal warning, and may see their marijuana seized and destroyed. Other officers are not as lenient; they free offenders on the street after issuing a Uniform Massachusetts Citation, the same piece of paper you get when caught speeding, to the offender, or tell the offender they will be summoned to court. If the offender receives a magistrate hearing, as he should if not arrested, it is highly probable no complaint ever issues. The least lenient arrest and hold the person for the bail magistrate.
For the district attorneys, it will mean the loss of the power to prosecute persons whose only criminal offense is the possessing of marijuana and the collateral punishments that accompany a marijuana possession conviction, such as loss of driver’s license for one year and possible loss of eligibility for federally guaranteed student loans provides leverage for plea-bargaining when other crimes are alleged.Of course, they will never admit that it is about power. Instead they thunder that decriminalization will result in increased use among young people; a concern not supported by experience. Passage of similar legislation elsewhere has not led to increased marijuana use or altered perceptions regarding the potential “dangers” of marijuana use. One U.S. government commissioned study of the impact of strict legal penalties on marijuana use concluded that, “decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”
A 2008 state-sponsored report on Seattle’s implementation of a 2003 voter- approved ordinance making investigation and prosecution of minor marijuana offenders the city’s “lowest law enforcement priority” found “no evident increase in marijuana use among youth and young adults; no evident increase in crime; and no adverse impact on public health.” The report also found that “there is some evidence of arguably positive effects [including,] fewer adults experiencing the consequences of involvement in the criminal justice system due to their personal use of marijuana.”
Opponents thunder that marijuana use is hazardous to public safety and public health. The truth is marijuana has been intensively studied over the four decades since its use exploded in the 1960s and it has not been established that marijuana use causes cancer or other disease including psychological illness. Nor is its use a significant contributor to motor vehicle and workplace accidents. Of course, one should not go to work or drive under its influence, but the research indicates its effects no more impairing than over-the-counter cold medicines.
If you are not yet satisfied that liberty and justice for all requires you to vote yes on Question 2, please explore www.MassCann.org and www.NORML.org.
If you are satisfied please donate to Mass Cann/NORML. You can do so by credit card or by mailing a check or money order, no cash please, to Mass Cann/NORML, P.O. Box 266, Georgetown, MA 01833-0366.As a 501(c)(4) non-profit dues and contributions are not tax deductible.