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Marijuana Could Be Decriminalized in Mass


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Proposed Senate bills no. 1121 and no. 1011 would replace criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine. House bill no. 2247 will create a program to make it legal for people to grow, smoke or possess marijuana with a doctor's written certification.

Under current Massachusetts law, people arrested for possession of any amount of marijuana can face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500, according to the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy.

"Creating a civil penalty system instead of a criminal one would save Massachusetts millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, and it's been proven that decriminalization does not increase marijuana use," said Sensible Marijuana Policy chairwoman Whitney Taylor.

Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition President Keith Saunders said previous polls show voters in the commonwealth support the bills.

He said the proposed legislation is based on public policy questions MassCann and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have asked since 2000.

"Massachusetts voters have made it clear that they do not consider the 10 percent of the state's populace who uses marijuana each month to be acting in a criminal manner just for smoking pot," he said.

Some in the medical field say reducing the punishment of marijuana may cause people to abuse it or other drugs.

"In its current state, it has been noted that marijuana can serve as a 'gateway' drug, sometimes leading to the use of more dangerous drugs," said Boston University Student Health Services Director Dr. David McBride.

He said marijuana smoke has the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke, causing similar health defects. Long-term smoking of any kind can lead to mouth and lung cancer and emphysema, McBride said.

BU School of Hospitality senior Sara Shein said marijuana has an unfair stigma attached to it and its misperceptions make it seem more harmful than it is.

"Many people use it to help with anxiety and I think it can help people in a way that prescription medications can't," she said.

BU College of Communication freshman Sadaf Ayub said she has noticed in her home state of California a smaller punishment for marijuana possession would have few negative effects.

"I think people are more responsible about smoking in [California] because the laws are less strict there," she said.

Source: Daily Free Press (Boston U,MA Edu)
Copyright: 2008 Back Bay Publishing,Inc
Contact: letters@dailyfreepress.com
Website: The Daily Free Press
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