Massachusetts Pot Law: Serious Problem or Sour Grapes?
Cops in Massachusetts are complaining that new pot decrim measure there is too complicated to enforce
By Jordan Smith,
10:35AM, Wed. Jan. 7, 2009
Seems there's a problem in Massachusetts with the new marijuana decriminalization measure that passed in November and went into effect at the start of the year -- but what the problem is, isn't entirely clear. Indeed, it seems either that cops across the state are...um, lets just say, "challenged," or that they're really just ticked off that the measure passed. I'm going to go ahead and guess that it's the latter -- or, rather, I should say I really, really hope its just a case of sour grapes that's apparently giving the fuzz in the Bay State so much grief.
According to the Boston Globe, police departments across the state say they're not going to enforce the new law, which decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults and provides only for a civil fine of $100. The measure, known as Question 2, earned 65% of the vote. The problem, police tell the Globe is twofold: First, police haven't gotten new ticket books that have a check-off box for marijuana possession; second, they say that without the ability to arrest a person or to "threaten them with arrest," they have no way to determine the real identity of people stopped for pot possession. The law is so problematic, John Collins, general counsel for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, told the paper, that it is "going to become a joke."
For real? Seems to me the real joke is that the cops are apparently incapable of figuring out a way to deal with the law.
Apparently not all police in the state are confused, however. Both Boston and Worcester PDs have figured out a way to handle the new law. BPD told its folks to use the "other" category in their ticket books to note the violation as pot possession, and as for the problem of securing a proper identification, BPD notes that police have a "reasonable amount of time" under the law to determine a person's ID. "Officers with initiative and experience can find out if somebody is lying," WPD Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst said. Indeed.
The real problem, it would seem, is that many cops simply don't like the law -- at least that's how it appears to folks with the Marijuana Policy Project, which backed the measure. Police in the state campaigned heavily against Q2, and it appears they're not done yet, said MPP spokesman Dan Bernath. "It's a very simple and modest change and there's nothing new about having a civil violation process," he said. "I think what's really missing is the willingness to enforce it."