Pubdate: Wed, 22 Feb 2006
Source: Newton Tab (MA)
Copyright: 2006 Newton Tab
Author: Steven S. Epstein, Esq.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Rep. Brian Wallace opposes reforming the state's marijuana possession 
law. He thunders "the use of alcohol and marijuana often leads to the 
use of more harmful and addictive drugs, and for that reason, 
believes the penalties should remain tough."

It is true that  "marijuana use precedes hard drug use" RAND 
researchers reported in a 2002  article, "Reassessing the Marijuana 
Gateway Effect." They found this is "simply  because opportunities to 
use marijuana come earlier in life than opportunities  to use hard drugs."

It is clear that  current criminal penalties for possessing marijuana 
reduce neither supply nor  demand. Anyone who wants it can get it. 
Close to 50 percent of Massachusetts  voters over the age of 18 have 
tried it at least once in their lifetime. Most  never tried any other 
illicit drug, almost all are good people and some are politicians.

By substantial  margins voters in 3 senate and 23 representative 
districts supported making  marijuana possession a civil violation 
and not a crime in Massachusetts  elections since 2000. The voters 
recognize the criminal justice system is not  the place to express 
disapproval. They understand that parents are the best  anti-drug. 
Parent-imposed punishments and voluntary counseling are more likely 
to rehabilitate the child than state-imposed punishments. When they 
do not, the  police or parents of a child below the age of 17 may 
petition the Juvenile Court  that the child is in need of services. 
The Court can then use the coercive power  of the state to help the 
parents and child. Legalizing,  taxing and regulating this 
agricultural commodity used in the past month by  about a tenth of 
Massachusetts' adult population, while prohibiting it to  children as 
we do tobacco and alcohol, is the best policy consistent with 
securing the Constitution's promised blessings of liberty. Until the 
federal  prohibition is relaxed, the decriminalization proposed is 
fiscally responsible,  humane and sensible.

Steven S. Epstein, Esq.
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