Marijuana reform right for Bay State by The Republican Newsroom, Wed., Oct. 22, 2008In the Comments section following the editorial, one woman worried that if Question Two passes, her mother's nurse, the school nurse and the school bus driver will all be able to smoke pot without consequences. This attitude always astounds me-- that people think that others would start smoking pot if it were decriminalized. If they wouldn't start smoking, why would others? In any case, the eleven other states that have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana have not seen any increase in marijuana use. So why should it happen here?
You have friends and family members and co-workers who have smoked marijuana. You may have even indulged a bit yourself back in the day.
Few people today would argue that someone who had been caught with a small amount of marijuana for his or her own personal use should be denied, say, a job. Or a student loan. Or an apartment. Or a professional license.
But that's exactly what could happen under current laws that are in place in Massachusetts. Question 2 on the November ballot seeks to right that wrong by making possession of an ounce or less - for personal use - a civil rather than a criminal offense.
Opponents of Question 2 - most notably district attorneys - argue that first-time offenders are directed to programs outside the criminal-justice system and thus leave no record of their transgression. But that's because the district attorneys currently in office choose to handle it that way. A successor could opt for a completely different tack, marking each offender for life.
Question 2 takes that possibility off the table.
Someone caught with a bit of pot would have the marijuana confiscated, would be assessed a $100 fine - and that would be that. There would be no criminal proceedings, no record to be accessed.
Question 2 is sound and sensible public policy.
It does not make marijuana legal. It does not make it OK to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana. It does not change a single law on the books regarding the sale or distribution of marijuana.
And it deals with youthful offenders in the most rational way: by getting the family involved. Juveniles caught with marijuana would have the citation delivered to a parent or guardian, and would have to complete a drug awareness program and perform community service.
Across the nation, there are 11 states that have passed laws similar to Question 2. Some have been in place for decades, and there is no evidence whatsoever that the change has led to increased marijuana use or a decrease in general order.
This reform is right for Massachusetts. We urge voters on Nov. 4 to support Question 2.
Arise and a few other organizations were going to have a press conference in support of Question Two next week but we were dissuaded from doing so by decisionmakers at the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy. Somehow the half dozen messages we've left at their office since this summer, saying we wanted to be involved in the campaign, didn't get through until just this week. Their position is, why give the district attorneys and other opponents a platform from which to respond? Instead, CSMJ is focusing on paid political ads. Check out their website for some great examples. You may have already seen the ads on TV or hreard them on the radio. Let's hope that hearing law enforcement officials say that it's time for reform will change enough minds.