Pubdate: Fri, 29 Apr 2011
Source: Salem News (MA)
Copyright: 2011 Eagle Tribune Publishing Company
Author: Steven S. Epstein


Today is the 100th anniversary of Massachusetts' first law 
interfering with free commerce in cannabis.

It was the first such state law in the nation. The 1911 law required 
a prescription from a physician. Massachusetts' medical users would 
benefit from returning to the law of 1911.

That is what should have happened in 1992 following then-Gov. Weld's 
approval of "An Act Providing for the Use of Marijuana in Therapeutic 
Research." Unfortunately, unlike more recent laws adopted in 15 
states and the District of Columbia, our law requires a federally 
approved source. Federal refusal to approve a supply makes it a cruel joke.

Since the voters decriminalized an ounce or less over two years ago, 
the fears of the "reefer mad" have not materialized. In what I do not 
believe was a coincidence, the state Supreme Judicial Court chose 
Patriots Day, April 19, 2011, to release its monumental ruling 
limiting the power of police to detain and search people based upon 
the odor of burnt marijuana. The decision makes it clear that 
operating a motor vehicle while impaired following consumption, 
remains a crime.

Left unanswered are other aspects of the law such as under what 
circumstances it would be appropriate to cite a person for possession 
based upon the odor of burnt marijuana; whether sharing small amounts 
with others is a crime; and the power of police who smell unburnt 
marijuana to seize persons and search. These issues and others will 
reach the court in coming years, even if Massachusetts takes the next 
step toward constitutional cannabis control and taxation.

There is precedent for doing so. In 1930, voters repealed 
Massachusetts' prohibition on alcoholic beverages, replacing it with 
no law, leaving it to the feds to enforce the federal prohibition. 
When it comes to cannabis and adults, we should follow that precedent.

Steven S. Epstein, Esq.


(Editor's note: Steven Epstein is a founder and an officer of the 
Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.) 
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