Question 2 ignites moral dilemma

By Denebola
Published: October 2008

By Jeremiah Davis

When they go to the polls on November 4, Massachusetts residents will vote on a ballot initiative that, if passed, will decriminalize possession of marijuana.

The ballot question, if passed, will reduce the punishment for possession for less than an ounce of marijuana to a $100 fine, no jail time, and no criminal report. If the offender is under 18, they must complete a drug awareness program and ten hours of community service in addition to the fine.

Under current laws, a Massachusetts resident caught with any amount of marijuana will be fined $500, face up to six months in prison, and have a criminal report filed against him.

Earlier this year, the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP), which believes these penalties are unfair, successfully added an initiative to reduce marijuana penalties to the list of three ballot questions on November 4th.

Failure to meet these requirements will result in an additional $1000 fine and a criminal report.  Even if the initiative is passed, however, Massachusetts marijuana laws prohibiting distribution of the drug and driving while under its influence still apply.

Whitney A. Taylor, campaign manager of the CSMP, has worked since late 2007 to help the proposition make the November ballot. CSMP believes that the bill should be passed primarily because of the impact a criminal report has on someone’s life, branding them a a criminal under the law. The CSMP thinks that this is too harsh a punishment for possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use.

“[Under Question 2] people will be punished, but not for the rest of their lives, Taylor said, “When the punishment is over, it’s over.

Eleven other states, including New York, California and Oregon, have passed similar laws.  Taylor said that these laws have helped the states from drug problems and allowed more effective drug education.

The Coalition for Safe Streets (CSS), an anti-Question 2 group, says on their website that the proposition will make selling marijuana easier and will cause harm to Massachusetts’ communities.

Laura Wareck, senior account executive at O’Neill and Associates, a public relations firm hired by CSS, said that Question 2 will help put more drug dealers on the streets if passed because of the low penalties and would make it harder to catch the distributors.

Wareck also believes that current laws are effective.

“[The laws] target the right people, she said. “Nobody in Middlesex County is in jail for marijuana possession alone.

According to Wareck, the people who are in jail for marijuana possession also have committed other offenses, such as driving under the influence or possession of other illegal substances and items.

Wareck also said harsh laws are needed to send the right message to minors.

“41 percent of teens are not concerned about driving under the influence, she said. “The message is that marijuana use is okay.

Meanwhile, Newton South students have a variety of opinions on Question 2. Sophomore Laura Haime believes approving Question 2 would be a dangerous decision.

“Not only would people smoke more, but it would increase the drug traffickers’ revenue, Haime, a native of Columbia, where the illegal drug trade is a deadly business, said.

Senior Byung Kim does not agree with the current laws, especially the laws regarding imprisonment.

“I just feel like it’s a stupid use of resources to spend all that money, he said. “[Smoking marijuana] just doesn’t seem to be so much of a problem.

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