Pubdate: Sun, 30 Nov 2008
Source: Metrowest Daily News (MA)
Copyright: 2008 MetroWest Daily News
Author: William G. Brooks, III
Note: William G. Brooks III if the deputy chief of police in Wellesey 
and the director of the Norfolk County Police Anti-Crime task force 
for the past 21 years.
Referenced: Question 2
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


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 (OCPF) 
raised over $1.2 million in support of Question 2. Over $1 million of 
that, or just over 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.

Why the disparity? Again, the OCPF Web site tells the story. Most of 
the proponents' donations came from George Soros, a New York City 
entrepreneur who personally donated $400,000, along with several 
out-of-state pro-marijuana groups whose stated mission is to 
decriminalize marijuana nationally.

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 OCPF 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