Friday, February 25, 2011

The Latest Update from MPP

Last update: February 17, 2011

On Wednesday, January 5, the 2011-2012 Massachusetts legislative session officially began. Once again, the Marijuana Policy Project, along with Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, will be working tirelessly to ensure that seriously ill residents of the Bay State are afforded protection from arrest and prosecution for using medical marijuana. Please e-mail your legislators and ask them to support medical marijuana legislation.

Rep. Frank Smizik has once again introduced legislation, HB 625 , that would protect sick Bay Staters from arrest and prosecution for using medical marijuana if their doctor recommends it. In addition, we expect Senate President Pro Tem Stanley Rosenberg to introduce a companion bill in the Senate soon. Rep. Smizik and Sen. Rosenberg’s bill is very similar to the legislation that stalled in committee last session. Please take a moment to contact Speaker DeLeo to politely and respectfully ask that medical marijuana legislation receive a vote this year.

Medical marijuana legislation is not controversial. Rep. Smizik’s 2009-2010 medical marijuana bill gained support from, among many other organizations, the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and the Massachusetts Public Health Association. To find out more about the proposed medical marijuana law, be sure to check out the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance's site.

Finally, if you are a patient with a serious medical condition who could benefit from medical marijuana, a loved one, a medical professional, or a member of law enforcement or the clergy who might be interested in speaking out, please contact the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance to see how you can be of special help in passing this legislation.

Marijuana possession citation law working well, despite continued attempts to weaken it

On November 4, 2008, Massachusetts became the first state to remove the possibility of jail time for simple marijuana possession by voter initiative. MPP’s campaign committee spearheaded this effort. Under the new law, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable only by a $100 fine and forfeiture of the marijuana.

During the 2009-2010 legislative session, despite the fact that the new law was overwhelmingly approved with 65% of the vote, several bills were introduced that sought to undermine Massachusetts' new marijuana possession law or otherwise increase the penalties associated with marijuana. Most of these bills were heard before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in July 2009, but fortunately, none of them passed.

Unfortunately, Rep. Todd Smola has introduced two bills to increase marijuana possession penalties. One would further punish an individual in possession of marijuana while in a school zone and the other would increase the penalty associated with possession of marijuana while in operation of a motor vehicle. Please sign up for our free e-mail alerts to stay up-to-date on any hearings or votes scheduled for these misguided bills.

Marijuana Laws in Massachusetts

Although possession of under an ounce of marijuana is punishable by a civil fine of $100 in Massachusetts, the prohibition of marijuana has plenty of opportunity costs. Time spent enforcing marijuana laws could better be used to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of violent crime. The clearance rate for murder in Massachusetts is 53.9%; for rape and burglary, the clearance rates are 27.8% and 23.8%, respectively. Please e-mail your legislators and ask them to consider a more sensible alternative. For more information on marijuana laws in Massachusetts, please see an in-depth report by Jon Gettman, PhD, about the current marijuana laws and policies in Massachusetts.

Stay connected

To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Massachusetts, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service.

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