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Lawmakers Consider Marijuana Legalization

Herb Fellow

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BOSTON – The Legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which includes three members of the Lynn delegation, meets today for a hearing on whether to decriminalize marijuana.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to conduct a hearing on the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP) initiative that creates a civil penalty and fine system for individuals possessing up to an ounce of marijuana.

The initiative, House bill No. 4468, is titled "An Act Establishing a Sensible Marijuana Policy for the Commonwealth."

According to Whitney A. Taylor, the CSMP campaign manager, "by creating a civil penalty system for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, the initiative will greatly reduce the human and financial costs of current laws. Massachusetts' taxpayers spend $29.5 million a year just to arrest and book these offenders. Even more costly is the creation of a criminal record for the approximately 7,500 offenders arrested every year.

Criminal records are entered into the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) database and result in lifelong punishment, potentially making an individual ineligible for student loans, creating barriers to employment, and barring individuals from many housing opportunities, Taylor said.

Sen. Thomas McGee, and Representatives Robert Fennell and Steve Walsh, all Lynn Democrats, are members of the joint committee.

The 1 p.m. hearing at the State House marks the third hurdle in the ballot initiative process: The legislature has until May 6 to pass the initiative and send it to the governor, draft its own version to place on the ballot, or take no action and allow CSMP to continue the initiative process, Taylor said.

The CSMP has lined up several panelists for the hearing to offer support for the initiative. Among them are Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-2nd Middlesex), sponsor of original legislation upon which the CSMP initiative is based; Thomas Kiley of the law firm Cosgrove, Eisenberg & Kiley, former Massachusetts deputy attorney general and the lawyer who drafted the CSMP initiative; Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economics professor and author of "The Effect of Marijuana Decriminalization on the Budgets of Massachusetts Governments"; and Jack Cole from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former undercover narcotics officer and an original signer of the initiative.

Source: The Daily Item
Copyright: 2008, The Daily Item
Contact: David Liscio/The Daily Item
Website: Lawmakers consider marijuana legalization
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