cannabisnews.com: An Ounce of Pot -- and Just An Ounce of Trouble





An Ounce of Pot -- and Just An Ounce of Trouble
Posted by CN Staff on February 24, 2006 at 19:59:45 PT
By David Perry, Sun Staff 
Source: Lowell Sun
Massachusetts -- For decades, marijuana has offered forbidden pleasure to its users, but a sobering penalty when caught. Last week, a state legislative committee took the first step toward lessening the sting for those caught with small amounts of marijuana. The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee voted 6-1 to make possession of less than an ounce of the drug a civil offense, punishable by a $250 fine. The citation may be paid by mail, just like a parking ticket. 
Parents of those 18 years and younger in possession of less than an ounce of pot also would be notified. As the law stands, offenders risk up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Such a measure has a long way to go -- it must be approved by the House and Senate. It then goes to the desk of Gov. Mitt Romney, whose anti-drug stance has been staunch. If he vetoes the bill, it would take a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override the veto. The possession of small amounts of marijuana (usually an ounce or less) has been decriminalized in 12 other states, according to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The Bay State bill may revive debate on the issue, state Sen. Susan Fargo hopes. Fargo was an early co-sponsor of the bill, after the late Sen. Charles Shannon, a former police officer, appealed to her for help. A 2000 poll in Shannon's district showed widespread support for decriminalization, and "it was something that was important to him, so I agreed to sign on," Fargo said. "I felt it was at least important to bring out for debate." Fargo said she's not yet sure where she stands. "It's not something I've yet done much research on at this point," she said. But the Bay State debate is not about the use of medical marijuana, to ease pain of those suffering from disease. Rep. Steven Tolman, a Brighton Democrat and chairman of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee, has said that the bill's goal is to make sure a youthful pot arrest and criminal record doesn't haunt someone for the rest of their lives. Chelmsford Police Chief Ray McCusker opposes decriminalization. "I'm obviously disappointed by this action," McCusker said. "I think it's going to cause the drug that's already the number-one choice of youth in our area to become even more prominent. That's my concern. Along with alcohol, it's the number-one drug of choice with teens. And I just think something like this sends a bad message to them. And I'm disappointed it's gotten this far." Lowell Police Superintendent Edward Davis also opposes decriminalization of pot. "And I think the general public by and large believes it should still be a criminal offense. There have been attempts to get this done through the courts with cases, and that hasn't worked. So now, they're going through the Legislature. "I know that research shows it's not a gateway drug, but in my opinion, marijuana sets the stage for the abuse of other drugs. And what tells me that is 10 years of past experience with narcotics enforcement." Davis said there is "incredible profit" spread among pot dealers and smugglers, "and I don't see how this bill would change that. I think we have to remain vigilant and prosecute people. We have a big enough problem with alcohol and those would only add to the problem we're already dealing with." Those who deal with addiction were split on decriminalization. Mary Grady, a clinician who works with juveniles at Lowell House, said the message the bill will send to "impressionable" young pot smokers is that "the less penalty you have, the less of a big deal it is." She said she has worked with children as young as 9 years old who have smoked pot. "And now, it can be tainted with heroin and cocaine, which are addictive. They go buy it and they never know what's in there. And it's so accessible." Grady said marijuana paraphernalia and seeds are readily available on the Internet, and pot itself is "easy to find. There are parents who sit on a Friday night, and invite kids 12 and 13 years old to smoke it with them. And what's going to stop them from doing that? 'I'll only get a fine, who cares?' "Adults, fine, go and do your thing. But somebody who's 12 and still impressionable?" Janice LaCroix, a Lowell drug and alcohol counselor, said she would like to see fewer law-enforcement resources used to chase "relatively harmless" pot. "Maybe if we stopped chasing all the marijuana out there, we could spend time on the heroin and the dealers who are killing our kids," LaCroix said. "I deal every day with severe addictions, including alcohol and heroin. Very little do I see marijuana as an issue of addiction. It typically isn't an overwhelming issue in peoples' lives. But I can walk down the street 10 feet to a liquor store that sells all kinds of poison. This morning, I was sitting with a 25-year-old who looks like he's 50. And that's from alcohol." She said marijuana is a "gateway" drug to harder drugs "if you want it to be. I used to smoke pot and never wanted to try cocaine or heroin. That's apples and oranges." "I don't see it as a gateway drug," said a 20-year-old Middlesex Community College criminal-justice major, who requested anonymity. He smokes weed, but not nearly as much as the rest of his family. "I'm the only one in my family who's not a daily smoker. My parents, brother, sister, they smoke regularly. I'm less frequent." "I agree with the legislation," said the student. "The idea should be to head toward decriminalization. My parents are successful people. It's not like it affects the rest of their lives. "The problem is, my biggest concern is, I've seen people caught with a small amount who've gone to jail, and it's been hard for them to recover their lives." "What the committee did was certainly something we support," said Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in San Francisco. Mirken said that evidence from studies in states that have decriminalized marijuana show that "it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference in terms of marijuana use in this country. The bigger question is, why put people in jail for possession or use of a drug that is demonstrably less addictive than alcohol?" Last year, he said, 771,605 people were arrested on marijuana charges, "the equivalent of every man, woman and child in the city of San Francisco." Yet reports show "every year it is widely available and becoming more available and there's no sign of any change. "At a certain point," Mirken said, "you do have to acknowledge that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Source: Lowell Sun (MA)Author: David Perry, Sun Staff Published: February 24, 2006Copyright: 2006 MediaNews Group, Inc.Contact: letters lowellsun.comWebsite: http://www.lowellsun.com/Related Articles & Web Sites:NORMLhttp://www.norml.org/Marijuana Policy Projecthttp://www.mpp.org/40 Years of Reefer Madnesshttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread21607.shtmlBid To Decriminalize Marijuana is Debated http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread21606.shtmlPot Bill Lights Up Debatehttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread21596.shtml
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Comment #10 posted by unkat27 on February 25, 2006 at 16:56:02 PT
More Executive Denial
"And I think the general public by and large believes it should still be a criminal offense." -- Chelmsford Police Chief Ray McCusker This guy is obviously completely out of touch with the "general public". For a decade now, the majority (another reference to 'general public') in Mass. have been voting for decriminalization (up to 85 or 90 percent) and the executive State-reps have been ignoring the vote. As this issue goes, there is no democratic power in the Mass-state. Fear-mongering vampires and vultures reserve the power to ignore the people. This is, of course, the saddest form of irony in what was originally documented as the state where the US war for independence from the British Empire first began.
MASSCAN
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Comment #9 posted by BGreen on February 25, 2006 at 16:30:20 PT
Two number ones?
Chelmsford Police Chief Ray McCusker opposes decriminalization."I'm obviously disappointed by this action," McCusker said. "I think it's going to cause the drug that's already the number-one choice of youth in our area to become even more prominent. That's my concern. Along with alcohol, it's the number-one drug of choice with teens. And I just think something like this sends a bad message to them. And I'm disappointed it's gotten this far."No, alcohol is the number one drug of choice of teens, the legal beverage that causes the most problems with teens.Cannabis is only number one AFTER the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco.Then again, when have you ever heard a cop tell the truth?The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #8 posted by lombar on February 25, 2006 at 15:26:27 PT
you left out MT there!
You better get the "Drug War Facts" site to update, I copied/pasted that last paragraph from there!
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Comment #7 posted by mai_bong_city on February 25, 2006 at 07:40:45 PT
don't forget MT, lombar!
you left out MT there! happy weekend everyone!
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Comment #6 posted by mayan on February 25, 2006 at 06:33:13 PT
Bring Em' Home, Already 
A true conservative has admitted defeat in Iraq. The neo-cons really need another "terror attack" and quick...It Didnít Work - by William F. Buckley Jr.
http://www.nationalreview.com/buckley/buckley200602241451.asp
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Comment #5 posted by rchandar on February 25, 2006 at 06:31:30 PT:
hmmm....
...interesting article. doesn't mention many names of people (politicians) in SUPPORT of the bill; maybe that's what we need to hear about. I do hope it passes; decrim is a very sane and rational way to go.--rchandar
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Comment #4 posted by MikeEEEEE on February 25, 2006 at 06:04:41 PT
A saturday morning yawn for McCusker
Bonehead - an unflexible mind that does not change.
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on February 25, 2006 at 05:48:45 PT
PROHIBITION = FAILURE
"I'm obviously disappointed by this action," McCusker said. "I think it's going to cause the drug that's already the number-one choice of youth in our area to become even more prominent.If cannabis is prohibited and it's still the number-one "drug" of choice for youth then maybe,just maybe,
PROHIBITION ISN'T WORKING!!! Can you prohibitionists grasp that? Perhaps we could try a different approach instead of the same old approach that's proven time and again to be a colossal failure? Duh!THE WAY OUT...Bedtime Stories From Your 9/11 Commission:
http://www.nomoregames.net/index.php?page=911&subpage1=bedtime_stories9/11 Revisited (video):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psP_9RE0V2ISander Hicks on 9/11:
http://www.hicksforgovernor.com/on911.htmlGlobal Outlook - The Magazine of the 9/11 Truth Movement: http://www.globaloutlook.ca/Scholars for 9/11 Truth:
http://www.scholarsfor911truth.org/
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Comment #2 posted by OverwhelmSam on February 25, 2006 at 03:28:56 PT
It's A Dirty Cycle That Needs To Be Broken
Lying about Cannabis being the gateway drug. Everyone knows that cigarettes and alcohol are the gateway recreational drugs.
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Comment #1 posted by lombar on February 25, 2006 at 02:32:09 PT
What is the law for again?
"There have been attempts to get this done through the courts with cases, and that hasn't worked. So now, they're going through the Legislature."How dare they!""I know that research shows it's not a gateway drug, but in my opinion, marijuana sets the stage for the abuse of other drugs. And what tells me that is 10 years of past experience with narcotics enforcement.""Sets the stage? So based upon all the people you've screwed over, you say 'the research is wrong and I am right'. At least the people over at LEAP learned that they were at best, just blowing smoke in a burning building when they were enforcing prohibition. Police conduct, not consumption.Here's a more likely scenario. Cops bust people for cannabis, they find out they have less rights than paroled murderers and rapists, get tossed in a cage, lose everything they have and get a cell mate whos been there too long. After suffering a few years of abuse at the states hands, gets out and can only find work in crime. So to escape the hell he/she has suffered he/she is pumping poisons into himself to numb the pain and trauma that *getting arrested* caused him. 
 Prohibition 'sets the stage' for cartels, gangs, terrorists, violence, crime, large non-violent prison populations, wasted resources, loss of civil rights, asset forfeiture, corruption, and overstaffed 'narcotics enforcement' departments. To what end? To keep the value of illicit drugs high enought to keep all the other madness going. Peace is not as profitable.Since 1996, eleven states have legalized medical marijuana use: AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ME, NV, OR, RI, VT and WA. Eight of the ten did so through the initiative process, Hawaii's law was enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor in 2000, Vermont's was enacted by the legislature and passed into law without the governor's signature in May 2004, and Rhode Island's was enacted overriding the governor's veto in January 2006.
Drug War Facts
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