Pubdate: Mon, 27 Mar 2000
Source: Union-News (MA)
Copyright: 2000 Union-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2350, Springfield, MA 01102-2350
Fax: (413) 788-1301
Author: T. Michael Burke


AMHERST   --   Voters tomorrow could make Amherst the first town in the
state to approve a referendum urging police to relax enforcement of
marijuana-possession laws.

The nonbinding question also asks state and national representatives
to work toward repealing the prohibition on marijuana.

Advocates hope an affirmative vote will mark the first step in a
statewide and eventually nationwide movement to decriminalize
marijuana   --   even if little change occurs locally.

Regardless of the vote, marijuana possession will still be illegal in
Amherst, and police will likely not change their policy.

"Any opinion, poll or recommendation doesn't supersede the law. We
uphold the law," Police Chief Charles L. Scherpa said recently.

However, the referendum question may affect tomorrow's selectman
election if, as expected, students turn out to vote in record numbers.

While collecting the needed signatures to place the referendum
question on the ballot, marijuana advocates signed up some 1,500 new
voters, mostly students. To put this number in perspective, only 2,079
people voted in last year's town election.

Selectman Hill Boss is running for a third three-year term against
town meeting member Anne Awad, director of the Massachusetts
Department of Public Health's western regional office.
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