One track is the state-wide Ballot Initiative sponsored by the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy. The other is two sets of reform legislation filed the old-fashioned way, directly with the General Court. One set (S. 1121 and S. 1011) deals with decriminalization; the other (H. 2247), with easing access to medical marijuana.

While they differ in details, the Initiative, S. 1011, and S. 1121 all move regulation of small amounts of marijuana (less than an ounce) from the criminal to the civil courts. This means that while possession of such amounts would still be illegal, the only penalty faced by those found guilty would be a fine. People would be free of the threat of criminal sanctions, which are very arbitrarily if not whimsically applied, and their names would be not be entered into the State’s Criminal Offender database. H. 2247 establishes a medical defense against the charge of possession for patients with a written recommendation from their doctor and the approval of their caregivers and the Department of Public Health. It is modeled after the Rhode Island bill enacted in late 2005.

At the moment the Legislature is ground zero for both efforts. S. 1121 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse and H. 2247 to the Joint Committee on Public Health. The Initiative, which for this purpose is known as H. 4468, and S. 1011 have been referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. (Judiciary is involved because the Legislature is given a chance to vote on Initiatives before they go on the ballot. If they vote positively and the Governor signs the bill, the text becomes law without being put to a popular vote.) Hearings for S. 1121 and H. 2247 have been held; those for S. 1011 and the Initiative are scheduled for March 4.

This is accordingly the best of all times to lobby your legislators, particularly if you have one on one of the above committees. Check the State’s Election Information page, make note of your legislators, both House and Senate, and then check them against members of the committees mentioned. If you find a match, drop him or her a note and then follow up with a phone call. (If you run into a staffer or legislator that seems especially sympathetic, please let us know.)

Email can be sent directly from the NORML website. Customize your message as time allows. Some legislators probably place more weight on paper mail, but it is hard to know for sure. Use the specific bill numbers where appropriate.

Full text of the Initiative (Now. H. 4668.)

CSMP’s explanation of the Initiative.

Full text of S. 1011

Full text of S. 1121.

Our testimony supporting S. 1121.

Testimony submitted on the budgetary implications of decrim, here and here.

Full text of H. 2247.

Testimony supporting H. 2247.