Boston, MA: A voter-approved initiative reducing penalties for the possession of marijuana in Massachusetts took effect last week, making it the thirteenth US state to eliminate criminal sanctions for adults who use cannabis.
Under the new law, police are authorized to issue $100 civil citations in lieu of making an arrest for adults found to be in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana or hashish. Under prior state law, minor marijuana possession was punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Sixty-five percent of state voters decided in November to liberalize the state’s marijuana laws.
Law enforcement personnel have expressed strong opposition to the law change, and some police have stated publicly that they do not intend to abide by the new law. State officials have also expressed interest in amending the new law to allow for stricter penalties for the use of cannabis in public.
Twelve other states, including Maine and Nebraska, have enacted similar laws – reducing pot possession to a civil violation punishable by a fine only. Approximately one-third of the US population now lives under some form of marijuana decriminalization.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500. Additional information is available online.