Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jan 2009
Source: Daily News Tribune (Waltham, MA)
Copyright: 2009 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author:   Steven S. Epstein
Note: Steven S. Epstein, an attorney in Georgetown, is  one of the founders
of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.


Like the British after Yorktown, the "reefer mad's" world turned
upside down after the people voted for Question 2. Sufferers are
seizing every opportunity  to appear on the airwaves or in print
claiming proponents duped 63 percent of  all voters statewide, urging
local authorities to follow the lead of "Reefer  Mad" Martha Coakley
and to adopt bylaws or ordinances re-criminalizing public 
consumption, and asking the Legislature to tamper with the new law.
Prior to passage of Question 2, opponents made it quite clear that
police discovered most possession offenses under circumstances where
the police would know the name of the offender.

Police have ways of getting people to identify themselves, even though
everyone has the right to remain silent when questioned.  Nothing has
changed. The law has not been in effect long enough to determine if
there is a significant scofflaw problem.

The problem is not Question 2, but the absurd construction of the law
by the District Court Chief Justice's Office that  determined that a
criminal complaint application for those who fail to pay or  request a
hearing is not available under the new law. I submit that just as with
 a leash law violation, violators who fail to pay or request a hearing
risk the police department's seeking a criminal complaint against
them. The $100 fine and forfeiture of the still contraband cannabis is
disincentive enough to those who may consume exposed to the public or
in public buildings.  More important to a government of laws and not
men is the incentive the fine  should provide for consistent
enforcement of the new law, though the fines are a  poor substitute
for the revenue constitutionally firm, wholesome and reasonable 
regulation would raise. Certainly, those officers who had
conscientious objections to enforcing the old law and would look the
other way, or just seize the contraband and release the offender and
those who arrested or summonsed those they encountered, should  have
no problem consistently issuing the citations. The Commissioner of
Elementary and Secondary Education, appointed by Question 2 opponent
Governor Patrick, advises public school systems that they may continue
to expel students for possession at school.

Expulsion is an extremely severe decision for any system to make, but
systems infected with the most virulent strain of "reefer madness" -
"zero tolerance" do impose it. Is it a "penalty, sanction or
disqualification" prohibited by Question 2? I think so. I hope school
administrators take into consideration the principle of mercy, as this
is one area where the stakes are sufficiently great that litigation
may result. The Legislature and municipalities need to be patient
before taking steps to close "loopholes" claimed to exist in the new
law. Let's see how our cannabis prohibition, now more like our alcohol
prohibition was as the "noble experiment"  never prohibited personal
possession and use, works.

Let us also remember that  experiment ended during trying economic
times. While we wait to see what change President Obama brings to
Washington and the change Question 2 brought to Massachusetts, the
change we really need is for our  representatives to awaken to the
constitutional error of cannabis prohibition  and the need to treat
cannabis cultivation like corn farming, and its distribution and use
as a psychoactive substance like alcoholic beverages. This would
recreate a hemp industry destroyed by prohibition. An industry that
dominated American agriculture in the age of sail and which every
other industrialized nation in the world permits for its fiber, inner
stock called "hurd" and nutritious seed and its oil. This would
restore cannabis drugs to the pharmacopoeia, so that doctors could
prescribe low cost herbal-based medicine.

A source that a federal administrative  law judge concluded more than
20 years ago provided the "safest therapeutically active substance
known." Doctors today can only prescribe an expensive synthetic  form.
It would also advance research into cannabis-derived medicines. Most
importantly, this would advance individual liberty, while providing at
least the same amount of revenue for the maintenance of the state in
excise taxes as collected from the alcoholic beverage industry, and
income taxes from those deriving their livelihood from the
cannabis/hemp industry.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin