Massachusetts Law Enforcement: Sour Grapes and Sore Losers

It brings me no joy to point out that some of the leaders of the law enforcement community in my home state of Massachusetts have apparently lost their minds in anticipation of a minor change in criminal law that will soon formalize the decriminalization of a small amount of cannabis. I say ‘formalize’ because for all intent and purposes cannabis was already largely ‘decriminalized’ in the Bay State. However, the laws and sanctions were applied nilly-willy, with no consistency town to town, cop to cop, and at great costs to the state’s taxpayers.

In the last few days, led in the media by the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, Massachusetts media outlets–and now even National Public Radio–have picked up on the absurd arguments recently advanced by the losing side of the November statewide election to decriminalize cannabis that: employment drug testing is now in jeopardy, police will be able to use cannabis anytime they want and that if police confront a cannabis consumer seeking to write them a ticket for possessing and/or using cannabis and the individual refuses to produce an ID, police will have pot smoke blown in their face by sneering, goading cannabis users fearless of receiving a fine.
All are untrue.
How do I know? Duh. Look around people…almost 100 million Americans live in a state or municipality that have had decriminalized cannabis possession laws on the books for decades (From west to east: AK, OR, CA, NV, CO, NE, MS, OH, NC, NY and ME). Do these states unfortunately still have employee drug testing? Are police sanctioned in these states to consume cannabis without drug testing and fear of job loss? Do police seek and receive citizens’ IDs before writing them a citation for cannabis? Did these states contribute to the ever-increasing arrest rates for cannabis consumers?
You betcha!
Listen to the NPR story from yesterday, December 26, to get the flavor of the MDAA’s unfounded timidity.
Now, the way Massachusetts law enforcement is acting is not new for the profession that gets away with the whopper that ‘they don’t make the laws, they only enforce them’.
In fact a cursory review of the history of cannabis law reform in America readily demonstrates that when these important and long overdue reforms occur by popular voter initiative–rather than by the legislative process–law enforcement tend to strongly resist the will of the voters, seek ways to obfuscate the voters’ will, set up dilatory tactics to fully implement the changes sought by citizens, and in some odd and bizarre cases, such as in cannabis unfriendly San Diego, where law enforcement and city officials continuously seek federal intervention that will prohibit them from implementing their own citizens’ will, effectively abdicating their local authority. (This is truly bizarre behavior for a large municipality, especially in otherwise cannabis tolerant California).
Truth be told that the Massachusetts initiative could have been better worded in numerous ways, notably regarding law enforcement’s complaint regarding compelling confronted offenders to produce a valid ID card for the purposes of citation issuance. However, what Massachusetts law enforcement fails to acknowledge in their ‘the sky is going to fall’ scenario if the Bay State formalizes cannabis decriminalization is that the Massachusetts legislature can amend voter initiative, and if need be, can readily amend the popularly passed cannabis decriminalization initiative (65% voter approval rate!) to compel citizens confronted by law enforcement of possessing cannabis to show a valid ID–just like the way tens of millions of citizens suspected of cannabis-related offenses and law enforcement have been conducting themselves since Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis possession in 1973.
What I fear is that during the upcoming legislative session where amending the recently passed decriminalization initiative is likely to happen is that prohibition-leaning elected policy makers, under strong lobbying pressure from the Massachusetts law enforcement community (and the federal government’s drug czar, a.k.a Office of National Drug Control Policy) will seek to effectively gut the decriminalization initiative and stiff the 65% of voters who loudly called for the state to formalize and make functional a statewide decriminalization model for adult possession of cannabis.
Cannabis law reform advocates, especially in Massachusetts, need to be ever vigilant going into this 2009 legislative session and make sure that law enforcement and prosecutors live up to their claims that they don’t make the laws, they only enforce them.

0 thoughts

  1. How do we in Massachusetts make sure that they don’t effectively shoot down this new law? What should we do?

    Why does this matter? Because it’s an all-or-nothing deal. The cops are mad at voters’ efforts, and already they plan on ‘cutting no more breaks’ in revenge. If this law is repealed, marijuana will no longer even be ‘effectively’ decriminalized in Massachusetts.
    The Sensible Marijuana Policy Project put it all on the line with this new bill – kudos to them. Now let’s make sure we don’t lose it all!

  3. Drug testing in jepordy, I run a large retail store, I have 10 employes, with full health care. Any new job applicants are asked if they do or have smoked marijuana. If the answer is no, I do not want them, They are lying to me. I have stopped all hazardous materials sales (Industrial fertilizer) And have gone all organic. So we are not required to drug test.

  4. There is one issue here that strikes me as potentially
    a big deal, at least in this state: getting the ID
    of those being fined for possession. The legislators are going to be asking what a police officer does if a guy possessing a joint refuses to identify himself, which he or she is now allowed to do (unless operating a vehicle).
    Society solved this problem in the context of traffic by requiring people to carry and present drivers’ licenses. I do not think the legislature is going
    to follow that precedent — requiring people possessing marijuana to carry and present on demand a pot possessing license — here. Another alternative
    is require everyone to carry and present ID, but that would be truly radical.
    The only other option is for the state to throw up its hands and accept that the law is unenforceable, except
    perhaps when possession occurs in the context of operating a motor vehicle. I suppose they could do
    this, but they aren’t going to like it much.

  5. Listen to the people for once, is it really that big of a deal. Honestly who cares if cops smoke weed, as long as they aren’t on duty.

  6. The Ma. State police has two set of rules. One for them and one for everyone else. I can tell you that i expect them to try not to enforce the new law. They wont even investigate a car theif or buglary !! They’re only interested in tickets that produce revenue so they can justify getting more cops. ( DUI)( traffic)etc.
    I do look forward to the day, when a pothead can still work at wal-mart !! Ha !! How stupid and cruel !! What’s going on with a new test to confirm that a person is stoned. I could understand that you don’t want me stoned on your time, but because i got stoned a few days ago, i’m gonna lose my job ?? I don’t think so !! When a cop, Dr., Lawyers, you name it, they don’t have to test. Personally, i would feel confortable with my Dr. getting stoned, but not just before he’s gonna cut me open. I don’t have a problem with a cop being stoned, as long as he’s not stoned on duty. I was a truck driver for 30 yrs. and i must have had 50 random drug tests. What a crock of shit that was, and i smoked a lot of those yrs. and never failed one. But like i say, that driver should’nt be running down the road stoned either. We need a test that’s fair !! But i should be able to smoke on my time off !!
    Thanks for sending me this flyer !! Now i’m gonna go tote up !! If you know a trucking Co. that don’t drug test, plese inform me !! Ha !! I’m a great driver. 3 million miles, and not one accident !! But a pothead i am !!

  7. Could Mass voters also pass a ‘lowest priority” measure to ensure the cops follow the law?
    I have seen many comments by Mass cops threatening revenge by citing people for things they would normally let go.

  8. Years ago ,Kevin Zeese of NORML sent me a report done by the state of Maine Attorney General on the impact of a decriminalization law passed a year earlier in ’77.
    The findings were that the state had gone from spending hundreds of thousands on arrest,prosecution and incarceration…to actually making a profit for the state in just one year.
    The report concluded that decriminalization was…”A model of good government reform”
    These Masshole cops need a showdown with LEAP.

  9. This would be a good time to begin a campaign to educate the legislators about cannabis. That way when they start their next session and an amendment comes up – which I believe to be likely – they’ll have the benefit of just having finished updating their knowledge of the plant, prohibition, and its costs.

  10. “Cannabis law reform advocates, especially in Massachusetts, need to be ever vigilant going into this 2009 legislative session and make sure that law enforcement and prosecutors live up to their claims that they don’t make the laws, they only enforce them.”
    I think it’s also important to start holding the federal government accountable for perpetrating what amounts to scientific fraud.
    As an example I point to the recent interview with Dr. Elsohly in the science section of the New York Times.
    I think this continued conflation of “marijuana seized” with “marijuana smoked” back in the sixties amounts to scientific fraud.
    There’s an accountability issue here like there is with law enforcement. Scientists are supposed to inform the public, not mislead the public.
    It’s a dreadful day when a science reporter is helping a scientist mislead the public.
    This war is a cancer eating away at the very institutions that allow a modern democracy to sustain itself.

  11. People in Massachusetts need to start video recording law enforcement leaving their favorite alcohol dispensary. “Buzzed driving is drunk driving”, right? Massachusetts or any states legislature should not allow their personal beliefs to affect their decisions “of the people, by the people, for the people”.

  12. WHY DONT WE GET WORD OUT THEIR TO THE PEOPLE WHY ITS ILLEGAL. Its not like their doing IT TO PROTECT US POINT THEM OUT. TELL THE PEOPLE WHY ITS ILLEGAL! ITS ILLEGAL BECAUSE IT INCREASES THE WALLOT OF THE POLITICIANS & the LOBBYISTS AND THE COMPANIES (Pharmaceutical) PLEASE for gods sakes point them out. People already know how harlmess weed is and some need to continue to learn but for gods sakes. POINT OUT HOW FUCKED UP our government is!!! ;( i just lost my house for it.

  13. Sounds like, well, you said it: sour grapes. They enjoy harassing and belittling people who would rather smoke cannabis than get stupid drunk. Now that they can’t arrest cannabis smokers they’re actually going to have to, you know, do their job.

  14. The bureaucrats who run the War on Marijuana are lying again.
    There’s no reason that the police couldn’t make it against their regulations–as a condition of employment–to abstain from marijuana.
    Of course, if you disallow responsible marijuana smokers from becoming police officers, the overall quality of your force will decline.

  15. Most of the comments on the MassCops forums are protests from one of the parties who stand to lose from the reform of the drug laws in this country: Law Enforcement.
    “Oh noes! The laws have changed, what will we do? We’ll have to LEARN new laws. We don’t want to enforce the will of the people or the law, we just want to bully people into submission”
    How these guys can get away with calling themselves “law-enforcement” officers is really beyoned me.

  16. These manufactured problems we are seeing with cannabis decriminalization are the reason why cannabis must be fully legalized, or at the very least, subject to the “alcoholic beverages” model.
    These cops and other moral do-gooders are going to throw these so-called “failures” (read: manufactured problems) back in our faces in a year or so. Indeed, I can see them saying “we tried to take steps in the directions the reformers wanted, and it caused more problems than it solved! The black market didn’t go away, and more people started smoking weed!” That will be the only excuse they need to go right back to idiotic Prohibition.
    These “sour grapes” show just how much cops and prohibitionists are opposed to ANY positive change in drug laws. I don’t see them giving up, I only see them getting angrier and angrier.
    We need to ramp up the pressure to the only real, workable solution: total re-legalization!

  17. The police should be informed that no one cares what they think in this matter. They are paid employees, paid to do a job. If the law holds that small amouts of marijuana should not be charged as a crime, then dont charge it as a crime.
    The take home message is follow the dictates of your employer or find a new job.

  18. Dennis,
    It is Massachusetts. But Dennis, if you point to one party or the other as being more responsible for the war on marijuana, you have fallen into the trap that politicians of both parties have set for you. They want to keep us busy pointing fingers at each other instead of holding congressional and state politicians’ feet to the fire on this subject.
    Take note…the same number of people were arrested for simple marijuana possession during Clinton as during Bush, about 5 million each.
    How do you explain this?
    Further, in every period of drug war ramp up, the Democrats controlled Congress by a wide margin. They are the people and that is the body that make laws. The Republican Congress between 1994 and 2002 did not appreciably change drug laws.
    Some of the most virulent prohibitionists are Democrats, such as California’s Dianne Feinstein and Harry Reid, who promised me on a radio talk show call in 2000 (KKOH Reno) that, due to a conversation with a handicapped person he knew to be of good character, the congress, “should look at that,” meaning the medical marijuana question.
    Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, where the modern medical marijuana movement began, has not been interested in the subject since becoming speaker.
    Where is your criticism, Dennis, or even your acknowledgment of this betrayal by so many Democrats for so long?
    See how they have got you in their trap?
    Prohibition of marijuana and other drugs and its drug war implementation are the most bi-partisan policies of all. Both parties love, cherish and protect it equally, mostly because so many state and congressional members and leaders come out of Law Enforcement.
    And this is a jobs issue for law enforcement, for if 770,000 people a year were not arrested and adjudicated for simple marijuana possession, far fewer cops and judicial personnel would be necessary.
    Or those that exist would have to start fighting real crime, like murder, rape, and child molestation, which is far more dangerous and far less fun than harassing pot smokers.
    If you insist on blaming one side or the other, people like say me, a Republican who has been in the anti-prohibition trenches since my first trip to Amsterdam in 1986, you will never be able to bring a plurality or a majority of people behind us and into the movement to end these counterproductive laws.
    It is up to you, and others like you, to lay down your differences with “Republicans,” and set your sites on those who support and defend marijuana prohibition, whatever their party or whatever their opinion on other issues.
    Your choice,
    Eric Johnson

  19. Consider the fact that many states now have privatized prisons. That sell stock on the NY stock exchange.
    Consider the fact that most judicial systems also sell their revenue streams (fines/court costs/tickets) on the International Markets. If your in the know, and know how to use dun & bradstreet you can find out for yourself.
    Now you take all that and realize that they have now lost a revenue stream. Some banker or broker somewhere isn’t going to get his new BMW as soon as he wants this year.
    Now add the pressure that will be applied from above to lower management. THey will begin to make up any number of stupid ideas and some will be so devious you will not believe that people can be that way.
    Start waking up to how deep drugs have gotten into banking in this country.
    You keep trying to fight a system that you believe is just religiously motivated.
    No, your not getting it. It is people who are financially motivated and using religion as a cover.
    …Wake up, follow the money

  20. WTF is wrong with the people in this country…You would think that there are bigger concerns than what drugs someone does….what does it matter….if someone wants to screw up their body thats fine wit me….People should be more concerned witht this idiot new president that the minority voted for…who allowed this country to be run by the minority anyway…WTF…i guess america is going down the tubes ….

  21. Let thy will of the people be carried out!
    No surprise that the ONLY people against this are police… smell something fishy?
    Drug testing in jeopardy? My god we test peoploe who stack meaningless movies on shelves.. yet the most powerful positions, hell ALL of them… are exempt from testing?!?!?!?!
    Our last 3, count them 3 Presidetns have smoked marijuana and yet they sit in the White House while thousands of decent tax paying Americans are sitting in the big house…. How can this be allowed to continue?
    Welcome to the hypocritical States of America
    Anyway congrats to you guys in Mass for passing the vote… hopefully, one day, we here in Florida will have a similar action in the future.

  22. Video from 2008 MassCann/NORML Boston Freedom Rally!
    Party tonight in Weymouth to celebrate and politic, gather our people for the upcoming local battles. I look forward to the first city that decides to repeal or amend this. 10,000 stoners on city hall!

  23. Where I work in MA we are subject to random drug testing. If I test positive for pot I lose my job. How can this be legal..with the new decriminalization law now in effect? Are there any lawyers out there who can respond?

  24. CONGRATS TO #17 AND #20. Go back and read their comments again.(also #25) The prohibitionist ARE already planning on nationwide decriminalization as a fall back position. They know they can’t stop decrim on a state by state basis. Someday soon you WILL be able to get busted with less than an ounce and not be arrested. But oh yeah, they will post your name to a website. Applying for a job, don’t waist your time. Need to go to the doctor or hospital, bring cash. Buying a home, not in any decent neighborhood. Exercise any of your constitutional rights as an American citizen, marijuana is ALWAYS the exception.
    While I do strongly agree with #20 as to the shameful record of almost all Democrat politicians, according to Zogby polls most voters who favor prohibition vote for Democrats, most prohibitionist vote Republican. Pot Smokers it seems, much like Democrats, are a TIMID bunch. Help change this by supporting the good work that the arch conservative publication NATIONAL REVIEW, write letters supporting that publication’s more than courageous stand on marijuana. Tell all who seek public office that you CAN NO LONGER VOTE for any candidate who SUPPORTS PROHIBITION. “IT WOULD SEND THE WRONG MESSAGE”

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  26. MPP left the back door open and many by laws will be held in town meeting enforce by the police and the ill will of those nay slayers who voted no and gto to every town meeting they will increase the fine by 3 times making it 400 and add other obfuscation to the the law as the AG office is making the by law to be past around This is wrong and should be attack by the people municipalities should not be able to make law

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