Boston, MA: Senate legislation that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana was approved by the Joint Mental Health and Substances Abuse Committee this week by a 6-1 vote.
If passed into law, Senate Bill 1151 would decrease penalties for the minor possession of marijuana to a civil offense punishable by a maximum fine of $250. Currently, state law treats simple possession as a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Twelve states and numerous municipalities have enacted similar versions of marijuana decriminalization.
The Joint Committee on the Judiciary is scheduled to hear testimony on House Bill 862, the companion bill to SB 1151, in March.
In 2004, voters in three Massachusetts Senate and eight House districts overwhelmingly backed several non-binding “public policy questions” depenalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use, and legalizing the medical use of cannabis for patients who possess a doctor’s authorization.