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November 6 2008

Massachusetts Decrimanilizes Small Amounts Of Marijuana

Who knew Massachusetts was turning in to “the fun state”?

For a long time I have advocated the idea that small amounts of marijuana should be decriminalized.  While illegal, and not all together smart, throwing some college kid in jail for having a joint has just never made sense to me.

Prisoner #1: What you in for?
Prisoner #2: Stabbed my wife.  You?
Prisoner #1: I had a joint.
Prisoner #2: Take whatever bunk you want, man!

This past Tuesday, the voters of Massachusetts passed Question 2, which will replace the old penalty of a $500 fine, up to six months in jail and a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report.  The new law is:

I like this. While I have always wanted the decriminalization to happen, I will admit I had never thought of keeping a fine in place, and the penalties for minors is also sensible.

Before I go any further with this, let me make one thing crystal clear: these are not the ramblings of a pot head.  Quite often when you see people going on about legalizing marijuana, you have to ignore their goofy grin and blood shot eyes, but, to date, I have never once smoked marijuana.  Yes, I did once get a “contact high” seeing as about 20 people behind me at an Guns N’ Roses/Aerosmith concert were smoking up, but oh well.  Otherwise I have never ventured past alcohol, cigarettes and too much Xbox 360.

So, why should a non-user give a hoot about the legalities of marijuana possession?  It’s a fairly simple answer in that I feel it is a horrible waste of civil resources.  Busting someone for small amounts of marijuana and jailing them takes up officer time, prosecuting attorney time, court time and resources of a jail.  In the end, we are all paying the price for someone smoking a plant, and that just is completely lost on me.

Our courts especially are already taxed beyond belief with backlogs of cases running into years, and this also adds to the workloads of our prosecuting attorneys.  According to an AP story, the new version of the law won’t take effect until sometime in December, but Hampden District Attorney William Bennett said he is already dropping all cases for possession of an ounce or less.

Opponents of the new law said that this was bad because pot serves as a gateway drug, which I have always found to be a weak argument.  I have known many people who have indulged in drugs over the years (hey, I said -I- was clean, nothing about people I’ve known), and not one of them ever said, “Oh, if I had just never smoked that first joint!”  In actuality, most of them had totally skipped marijuana and gone straight to cocaine or stronger.  (side note: Having seen someone in heroin withdrawal is probably what kept me from ever trying a drug -shudder-)

Is this going to be a perfect system? Probably not, but I certainly feel it is a step in the right direction for taking care of some of the load on courts and jails.  I also think it will save some people from having their lives destroyed due to a simple mistake that might keep them from getting into some schools and proffesions they may want to go into later in life.

In short, it’s not perfect, but I still think it’s better than what was there.



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