For those of you who don't live in Massachusetts, or for those of you who do, but don't know what Question 2 is, here's an excerpt from my "The Official Massachusetts Information for Voters" pamphlet:
Question 2: Possession of MarijuanaI'm going to be honest.
This proposed law would replaced the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties, to be enforced by issuing citations, and would exclude information regarding this civil offense from the state's criminal record information system. Offenders age 18 or older would be subject to forfeiture of the marijuana plus a civil penalty of $100. Offenders under the age of 18 would be subject to the same forfeiture and, if they complete a drug awareness program within one year of the offense, the same $100 penalty. Read more about Question 2 here.
Arguments in favor of Question 2:
Arguments against Question 2:
- The threat of arrest, jail, loss of student loans, loss of driver's licenses, and other sanctions for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Instead a $100 fine, similar to a speeding ticket, would be imposed.
- Police would be freed up to focus on serious crimes, rather than arresting 7,500 people annually for marijuana possession.
- Taxpayers would save $30 million a year in arrest costs.
- Question 2 would not increase marijuana use. Eleven other states have similar laws and have shown no increase in marijuana use.
- Decriminalization emboldens and enables drug dealers and poses a threat to public health and safety. One ounce of marijuana - street value $600 - equates to approximately 56 individual sales.
- Marijuana users are 10 more likely to be involved in automobile crashes. It is more strongly associated with juvenile crime than alcohol. A large percentage of criminal arrestees (approximately 40%) test positive for marijuana.
- Decriminalization is opposed by law enforcement, educators, health care, business and community leaders.
I never really read the arguments against Question 2 when I got the pamphlet. I "knew" I was going to vote yes because I'd rather the cops spend time and resources arresting "real criminals" than bothering someone for carrying around a joint or two.
That just shows how ignorant I was. Had I read the "against" previously maybe I would have known...but I didn't until I stumbled upon this blog post on the Boston Police Department Blog.
The myth is that one ounce or less is an insignificant amount of marijuana. An ounce of marijuana can sell on the street for anywhere from $300 to $600. An ounce is a lot of marijuana and can total 50 to 60 individual joints. That amount can easily be used for distribution and is not considered insignificant to law enforcement.
Below are photos that include one ounce of marijuana and also firearms recovered as a result of recent marijuana busts.
Ok, woah - that's a lot more than the one or two joints I imagined. Had I bothered to read the "against" statements I would have known that an once could make up to 60 sales on the streets.
Had I known that I might have realized people walking around with this much marijuana are probably also in possession of some illegal weapons, like the ones listed above.
Had I really *thought* about it I would have thought to myself, let's be real. The time the police gained by not booking these "criminals" would not free them up to focus on "serious crimes" it would free them up to spend more time at Dunkin' Donuts.
Had I read the entire Question I would have laughed at the audacity of the $100 fine they equate to a speeding ticket (have any MA residents ever received a speeding ticket of $100? I thought there was a $150 minimum in this state?) Because if you really read the question you only pay if you can.
It's scary to think I could have been one of those "un-educated" voters in the booth on Tuesday morning.