Pubdate: Sat, 22 Oct 2011
Source: Taunton Daily Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2011 Taunton Daily Gazette
Author: Steven S. Epstein
Note: Steven S. Epstein, Esq. practices law in Georgetown, and is a 
founder and officer of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.

Guest Opinion


Two members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation and four 
members of the Massachusetts legislature endorse ending marijuana 
prohibition. The rest of our congressional delegation has yet to 
catch up with Barney Frank and Michael Capuano, and 196 members of 
the state legislature have yet to catch up with Ellen Story of 
Amherst, Ruth Balser of Newton, Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead and Anne 
Gobi of Spencer.

These representatives understand, as did a majority in a recent 
Gallup Poll, that a regulated market is better than a black market.

There are nine representatives on Beacon Hill who continue to suffer 
from reefer madness. Although it is difficult to assess who suffers 
the worst case, here are nine nominees. Is it Democrat James M. 
Murphy of Weymouth, Republican Todd Smola of Palmer, William "Smitty" 
Pignatelli of Lenox, George Ross of Attleboro, Gailanne Cariddi of 
North Adams? They are all sponsoring legislation that would gut 
2008's Question 2 that removed criminal penalties for possessing an 
ounce or less of marijuana.

A proposition supported statewide by more than 64 percent of the voters.

Alternatively, is it John Binienda and John Fresolo both representing 
Worcester who suffer more? They are the only sponsors of H. 3138, 
proposing a doubling and in some cases, quintupling of the penalties 
on those caught engaging in growing or commerce in marijuana.

Representative Murphy's H 1836 repeals Question 2, while giving 
municipalities the option of accepting it. His H 1837 restores the 
criminal law to offenders encountered just about everywhere police 
are likely to encounter it. In 2009 and again this session this 
former Assistant District Attorney has filed these bills without co-sponsors.

Representative Smola's H 507 seeks to make marijuana possession of 
any amount the only "possession only" controlled substance offense 
subject to a mandatory minimum 2-year sentence if possessed within 
1000 feet of a school or 100 feet of a park. He files this, while 
legislation seeking to reduce expense to the taxpayers by reducing 
the number of non-violent offenders serving mandatory minimum 
sentences is making headway in the legislature. His H 508 seeks to 
reinstate criminal penalties for possession upon the operator of a 
motor vehicle in which police find marijuana in the passenger 
compartment, even if in a passenger's pocket.

Alone this year, in 2009 Jeffrey Perry, Elizabeth Poirier and Richard 
Ross joined him. Jeff Perry has left the state legislature. Richard 
Ross won the Special Election to fill Scott Brown's seat and may have 
recovered. Elizabeth Poirier also may have recovered from her reefer madness.

Perhaps the realization that more than 62 percent of their 
constituents voted for Question 2 cured them with a booster shot in 
November 2010 when a similar percentage told Ms. Poirier and other 
representatives in the area to "vote in favor of legislation that 
would allow patients, with their doctor' s written recommendation, to 
possess, grow, and purchase marijuana for medical use."

Finally, there is H. 477 filed by representatives Pignatelli, Ross 
and Cariddi. It seeks to re-criminalize possession of an ounce or 
less of marijuana if captured on school, youth center, or community 
center grounds. Do they really want teenagers to once again receive a 
criminal history and possibly go to jail?

I leave it to you to decide which of these nine legislators suffers 
the worst case of reefer madness. What I know for sure is that when 
making such proposals they are not adhering to the fundamental 
principles of our government founded upon the consent of the governed 
and those of justice, moderation and frugality, "absolutely necessary 
to preserve the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart