On Tuesday, September 29, a public hearing was held by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary to consider S. 1586, “An Act Punishing Possession of Marijuana in a Vehicle.” Steve Epstein, representing MassCann was the primary individual presenting testimony in opposition to the bill.  He was the third to last person to testify that day.

Earlier, Wellesley Deputy Police Chief Bill Brooks, echoing the positions enunciated in “Sen. Scott Brown out of joint”, Boston Herald, September 28, 2009, complained that Question 2 was poorly written.  He gripped that while police currently have the authority to fine an individual for having an open container of alcoholic beverage in the car, the civil fine for possession of marijuana is only $100.  He said he wasn’t against marijuana decriminalization, but that there are many problems in the law, and that new laws need to be passed to prevent people from driving while consuming marijuana. Interestingly, Boston police showed up to support a bill which would make the construction of secret compartments for smuggling in cars illegal, but said nothing about S. 1586.

Epstein opened by noting that while State Senator (and candidate to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat in the U.S. Senate) Scott Brown claims to have filed the bill by request that is not what the bill says, noting that when he asks for his representative to file a bill, it clearly notes it is by request.  He further noted that while he was aware Mr. Brown had submitted written testimony he questioned his courage, as well as the other two sponsors for their absence.

He then rebutted Deputy Chief Brooks’ arguments by pointing out that if Question 2 was poorly drafted the proposed bill was too.  Suggesting the police chiefs get a hold of the Legislative Drafting Manual, as their proposed law is so poorly written it cannot be taken seriously by pointing out that the bill provides for a minimum fine of $1000 for the offense it sets no maximum, making it problematic to implement. Furthermore, statutes which include stiff penalties for driving under the influence of any drug already exist. With his characteristic irreverence Mr. Epstein crumpled his copy of the proposed bill and tossed it aside, eliciting laughs from the Committee members, all of whom know Steve by name after so many years appearing at the State House to promote sensible marijuana policies.

Epstein took advantage of the attention of the members of the Judiciary Committee to ask them to schedule an executive session to vote on the medical marijuana bill sponsored by Senator McGee which has been languishing in the committee since public hearings were held July 14. Chair Senator Creem indicated that such a vote is imminent.


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