SJC Marijuana Ruling Underscores Need For Police To Focus On Serious Crime, Not Recreational Pot Users Part Two of Two

In my previous post, I reported on the SJC’s ruling last week, restricting police authority to order the operator or occupants of a stationery vehicle to exit the vehicle, based solely upon the odor of marijuana. In their ruling, the SJC emphasized that the public’s approval in 2008 of the ballot initiative decriminalizing personal possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, was in effect a mandate that police and prosecutors concentrate their resources and efforts on serious crime.

It is this key point regarding the voters’ clear mandate in 2008 that police and law enforcement focus on serious crime and violent offenders, which I want to address now. I have blogged previously about the foolishness and counter productiveness of our present drug laws, state and federal. When it comes to marijuana alone, billions of dollars of taxpayer money are spent each year in this country, arresting and prosecuting an activity that has been proven scientifically, time and again, not just to be nor more harmful than alcohol, but far, far less harmful. As a Boston drug offenses lawyer, I have personally witnessed the waste of enormous police, court and prosecutorial resources, “chasing “this victimless, extremely benign recreational activity. Tens of millions of dollars are wasted each year paying police to chase and arrest, and then paying District Attorneys’ offices even more to prosecute, the use of a substance that is far, far less dangerous and far, far less harmful than a single can of beer.

These points have been argued rationally and responsibly for years now, by respected organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which filed a supporting brief for the defense in this case. Time and again, NORML and state affiliates such as MassCann, have said that personal use of marijuana does not deserve the attention and the expense utilizing police resources that should inarguably be spent dealing with violent and predatory crime.”

The relative medical safety of marijuana has been proven repeatedly, in a number of scientific journals. (I say “relative safety”, noting that any substance, if taken to extremes, can become harmful or toxic. To offer an extreme example, ingesting too much water could theoretically kill someone, as could ingesting too much food.) People blind to this fact need to shake off their blindness and political ideology, and consider their own observations since high school days. For myself, I can honestly and accurately say that in looking back over 30 years, and remembering all the friends that I knew who smoked pot as a teenage high school student, a college student, a 20-seonmthing, on into my thirties and 40’s. I have never known a single person to become “addicted” to pot. I’ve known people who have enjoyed it, but have never known anyone who became chemically, medically addicted to it. I compare that to the legions of people I have seen in my life become alcoholics. I’ve seen lives ended, lives ruined, and tragedy unrelenting from the use of alcohol. Yet I cannot recall anywhere near the same results with marijuana, and the scientific reason is clear: Pot is not addictive, and as far as harmfulness goes, medical studies have shown that a person would have to smoke the equivalent of at least a pack a day (approximately 24 cigarettes,) before risking lung cancer. Most people that I remember who smoked pot, smoked around 1 to 2 cigarettes a day, at most.

Despite all the scare tactics by opponents of decriminalization in 2008, the voters knew it then, and importantly, the justices of the SJC knew it when rendering this ruling. Let this landmark decision send a strong message to the Legislature, the Governor, to other states and to Congress: Marijuana policy to date has been flawed and foolish. Our tax dollars should be spent on pursuing, arresting and prosecuting violent crime and violent criminals, not on harassing innocent citizens for recreational use of a benign herb.

Not surprisingly, even in the wake of this landmark decision, Massachusetts police and prosecutors still don’t seem to “get it”: Their response to this ruling is to predict more Armageddon – the same kind they predicted in the 2008 ballot campaign. Commented Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis. “I think this particular decision presents an enormous problem for us. We will be the only state in the country where this standard is in place. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Hmm. Kind of like the way police predictions about decriminalizing pot never made sense. In saying this, I don’t mean to be sarcastic; I’m simply pointing out the unsupported foolishness of this kind of thinking. And the fact that I’m Boston criminal defense attorney doesn’t mean that I don’t admire a lot of police officials and prosecutors. In fact, I’m a fan of Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley. I think he’s a fair-minded and responsible District Attorney.

I should note that while the 2008 ballot initiative decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for personal, recreational use, as of present possession of more than one ounce remains a crime, as does “distribution” of pot. “Distribution” generally means the transfer or sale of more than one ounce. If you or someone you know has been charged with a marijuana offense or other Massachusetts drug offense, call us. We are very experienced in this area of criminal law, and we will make sure that your legal interests are protected to the maximum amount possible. We know how to defend these cases very well. Don’t choose just any lawyer: If the lawyer or law firm that is representing you is not extremely experienced in this area of law, you could end up in more trouble than you started with. If you or someone you care about is facing a Massachusetts drug offense, don’t make a mistake at this stage. Contact us for a free consultation.