A resounding 65 percent of Massachusetts residents voted in favor of
Question 2 on last November’s ballot, enacting The Sensible Marijuana
Policy Initiative.

The new law essentially replaces criminal penalties for possession of
marijuana with a $100 fine. The law also eliminates the reporting of the
offense through a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report.

Proponents argue the new law could save taxpayers $130 million per year
in prosecution and court costs, and instances of minor marijuana
possession would no longer affect a person’s ability to obtain a job,
housing, and school loans.

Police Chief Gary Chamberland opposed the initiative, and still does. He
says the policy sends the wrong message to kids, and makes it easier for
drug dealers to sell marijuana without being arrested.

“I think marijuana is a gateway drug and by decriminalizing it it
legitimizes it in the eyes of the general public especially our youth.
There are enough problems with the consumption of alcohol by teenagers
and young adults without adding another substance into the mix,” he says.

Chamberland believes the ultimate goal of those pushing for the passage
of Question 2 is to eventually legalize not only marijuana, but all drugs.

Still, the police department is complying to the new rules. The
department has purchased ticket books at a cost of $230, specifically
for handing out marijuana fines. Each officer is assigned a book, and
has been instructed on how to proceed. Chamberland reports that the
department has issued seven violations since the law took effect, but
only one of those violators has paid the fine.

“I was hoping to be able to recoup that [ticket book] expense by the
fines collected, but that is not looking to promising at this time,”
said Chamberland.

“The law, which was written poorly in my opinion, leaves no sanctions
for non-payment of the fines. What we have done is selected a couple of
the tickets that were not paid and are filing in small claims court to
have the fines paid. The legislature really needs to fix that problem
with the law.” The chief said he isn’t very hopeful the fines will be paid.

All the money collected from the fines goes to the town or city where
the violation occurred. For instance, if a state police officer stopped
a car on Main Street in Sterling and marijuana was found, the fine would
be payable to the Town of Sterling.

“Police don’t make the laws we only enforce them,” Chamberland said.
“The people have voted and we will proceed with their wishes.”