Pubdate: Sat, 29 Nov 2008
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2008 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: William G. Brooks, III
Note: William G. Brooks III, deputy chief of police in Wellesley, has 
been director of the Norfolk County Police Anti-Crime task force for 
the past 21 years.
Referenced: Question 2
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


QUINCY -- The Nov. 4 vote to decriminalize marijuana possession says 
as much about ballot referendums as it does about drugs. According to 
material posted on the web site of the state Office of Campaign and 
Political Finance, the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy raised 
more than $1.2 million in support of Question 2. More than 83 percent 
came from outside Massachusetts.

The opponents of Question 2, the Coalition for Safe Streets, a group 
organized largely by the district attorneys, raised just over 
$60,000, or about 5 percent of what the proponents raised.

One particularly disturbing aspect of the proponents' campaign was a 
series of 30-second television ads which featured two retired police 
officers. In each case, photos of the former officers wearing police 
uniforms were shown as the men touted the value of civil penalties. 
One ad promised that the new law would free up officers to go after 
violent criminals and that a 'yes' vote would "make our communities safer."

Both claims are erroneous and, by the way, the state Office of 
Campaign and Political Finance web site indicates that the Committee 
for Sensible Marijuana Policy paid the officer $4,000 for this 30-second ad.

So now we are left with a law that makes no sense. Civil penalties 
will not save the state $30 million dollars each year in criminal 
justice costs like the proponents promised. In fact, it will cost the 
state money to develop and administer a drug awareness program 
mandated by Question 2, and to pay the salaries of the program's instructors.

And the new law does not decriminalize only small amounts of pot - it 
decriminalizes up to an ounce of marijuana or hashish. Non-drug users 
probably don't realize that an ounce of marijuana generates about 50 
joints and sells for about $500.

The proponents led the public to believe that people's lives had been 
ruined because convicted marijuana users were left with a drug 
conviction on their record. But under the old law, a person caught 
for the first time with marijuana was placed on probation for six 
months, then the case was dismissed and the record sealed. CORI files 
accessible to the public contain only information on convictions, so 
these records were not revealed.

What most people don't understand is that the CORI law is actually 
designed to protect criminal records. Ironically, the new law moves 
marijuana out of the arena of criminal records and into the civil. 
There are no protections pertaining to the disclosure of civil 
records by criminal justice agencies.

Under the old law, if a newspaper were to ask a police department for 
a list of all the people charged with marijuana possession the 
previous year, the police department would have been legally 
prohibited from disclosing it. Once Question 2 goes into effect, a 
police department will be required to disclose such information 
because it will become a public record under Massachusetts law.

And contrary to the myths promoted by the Committee for Sensible 
Marijuana Policy, marijuana arrests don't prevent students from 
getting college loans for life and marijuana smokers don't serve jail 
time in Massachusetts.

When the new law takes effect, the police will still be able to 
arrest minors caught with alcohol, but not if they're carrying $500 
worth of marijuana. A person under 21 who is convicted of 
transporting alcohol will still lose his license for 90 days, but a 
minor who transports marijuana or hashish will not lose it.

Getting caught with an open beer in a vehicle carries a $500 fine, 
but getting caught with marijuana or hash will carry a fine of only 
$100. High school teachers are already telling us that students are 
talking about how much easier it will be to smoke weed.

The system that brought about this change in our drug laws is flawed 
and the public was hoodwinked. Now law enforcement is left to deal 
with this mess.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake