Pubdate: Thu, 13 Nov 2008
Source: Pembroke Mariner (MA)
Copyright: 2008 Community Newspaper Company
Author: Steve Annear
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Last week, Massachusetts spoke and voted in favor of Question 2, which
replaces criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of
marijuana with a civil penalty of a $100 fine and or for juveniles,
mandatory attendance of a substance abuse class.

Communities all over the South Shore backed the measure, with Pembroke
voting Yes with 6,003 votes to 3,454 No votes. In Halifax the number
reflected the same opinion with a count of 2,532 in favor and 1,408
voters against the question, and in Plympton, the hand-counted ballots
turned out 1,090 to 600 in favor of the question.

Now, police in all three towns are gearing up and getting ready for
the aftermath of the voters decision and how they will deal with civil
penalties for marijuana use, rather than the criminal penalties that
have spurred investigations and undercover stings in the past.

"Possession of marijuana is still illegal in Massachusetts. It's just
that simple," said Police Chief Matthew Clancy of Plympton. "There is
this euphoric atmosphere in some circles that this is a pass of some
sort but it's still unlawful to possess it."

Clancy said people seem to believe that because Question 2 was passed,
that it has given them the right to walk the streets smoking marijuana
freely and without penalty.

"Everybody seems to think that small amounts of marijuana is legal and
it's OK to spark up, but that's what's troubling, it's sending the
absolute wrong message to these kids, it really is troubling," he said.

In Pembroke, Police Chief Michael Ohrenberger has similar concerns,
but says the vote will not take effect for a few months, and in the
mean time, officers are continuing to handle situations involving
marijuana as they always have-with enforcement.

Ohrenberger said the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
constructs the law and they need to set in place how marijuana related
fines will be processed. Currently, it's a criminal offense, and when
the law goes into effect, sometime in December, it's going to be a
civil process.

"That won't go into effect until sometime in December and the process
is not really in place at this point," said Ohrenberger. "But I think
it's going to cause more abuse, yes, I do. But I also think we have to
wait and see how that's going to get processed out to us. As far as
how are we going to enforce the law, that's what we do."

According to Ohrenberger, the Attorney General is in the process of
devising instructions for officers and it will be issued to police as
a policy, but for now they must continue to make arrests as the law
states and wait until the guidelines and procedures to follow get released.

"They are in a hurry-up mode making sure that this all gets in place
and the law goes into effect 30 days after the Governor's Council
certifies the election," said Ohrenberger.

Halifax Police Chief Michael Manoogian is also sitting tight, waiting
to hear from the Attorney General and the Office of the Secretary of
Public Safety.

"It has to be acted upon accordingly. My crystal ball just doesn't
know what to expect, it's cloudy as to whether people are going to try
and flaunt it or not," he said. "What's really going to happen with
this depends on the public. If they flaunt it it's still against the
law, and the officers are going to act. If people continue to violate
the law, then things will probably remain the same."

Manoogian said he had heard stories of people thinking they could take
marijuana out in public and wave it at the cops. "It just means you
may not get arrested, or something on your record, but we still take
some form of action.," he said in response to the stories.

All of the chiefs agreed over the years they have seen a fair share of
law enforcement changes, but the passing of Question 2 was one of the
more notable ones in their careers.

"The voters have spoken, but we don't make the laws we just have to
enforce them," said Clancy. "In the long run, though, this is really
not in the best interest of our kids."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin