Pubdate: Thu, 12 Mar 2009
Source: Daily News, The (Newburyport, MA)
Copyright: 2009 Eagle Tribune Publishing Company
Author: Scott Mortimer


To the editor:

Apparently law enforcement officials are still campaigning against
marijuana decriminalization, four months after the historic passage of
Question 2. Pending legislation at the Statehouse could undermine the
new law. What happened to the old law enforcement adage, "We don't
make the laws, we just enforce them"?

When Massachusetts voters approved Question 2 by an overwhelming
margin - 65 percent to 35 percent, nearly 2 to 1 - we rejected 80
years of failed, overly punitive policy that resulted in some of the
highest rates of marijuana usage in the world, particularly among minors.

When the first criminal marijuana laws were passed in the early 1900s,
usage was confined to a very small portion of the population. Today,
43 percent of graduating high school students say they've used
marijuana, and studies show it's easier for kids to get marijuana than
beer. Criminal marijuana prohibition has been an utter failure by any

In the Netherlands, where cannabis is regulated and taxed like alcohol
and tobacco, usage rates are far lower than in the U.S. A 2008 World
Health Organization study showed that 42 percent of Americans admit
marijuana use, while usage in the Netherlands was only 20 percent.
Among those 15 years of age or under, the usage rate in the U.S. was
20 percent; in the Netherlands, only 7 percent had used marijuana by

Yet even after Question 2's overwhelming approval, the exaggeration
and mythology continues. Sheriff Cousins (Viewpoint, March 3) states
that Q2's backers said the measure would reduce prison overcrowding -
I don't see that on their Web site. What they did say is that Question
2 would save money in policing costs - since an arrest can take an
officer off the street for hours - and also in court costs. Marijuana
violations are now payable by mail, instead of hiring a lawyer and
going to court to fight criminal charges, which contributed to our
back-logged court system.

He recycles the old "gateway effect" myth, even though this theory has
been disproved again and again in federally funded studies, e.g., the
1999 Institute of Medicine report that stated marijuana "does not
appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even
that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse."

Sheriff Cousins then lists the negative consequences of marijuana
arrest and the resulting permanent record, seeming to forget that 68
percent of Newburyport just voted to stop ruining people's lives over
marijuana use - possession is now a civil offense. Minors get the fine
and extra community service hours to work off.

Massachusetts citizens are some of the hardest-working, best-educated
people in the United States. The vast majority of us have had our own
experiences with marijuana or seen friends or family use it. We've
heard all the propaganda, but we decided to move forward in a new
direction. As Thomas Jefferson stated so eloquently, "It is a happy
truth that man is capable of self-government."

References: 2008 Teen Survey.pdf

Scott Mortimer

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