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Marijuana Law Means Whiff Is Not Enough

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
North of Boston -- Persons who value the advantages of liberty and the principles of the constitution of Massachusetts will remember April 19 of 2011, the 236th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, as a little more special. It was the day that the Supreme Judicial Court released an opinion that the smell of burnt marijuana no longer empowers police to detain persons and search them or their possessions.

The case of Commonwealth v. Cruz arose when police spotted a car illegally parked. Two people were in the car, Mr. Cruz in the passenger seat. According to the police officers involved, when they approached the car, they smelled the faint odor of burnt marijuana. They ordered Cruz out and, in response to an inquiry by police, he gave up a piece of crack cocaine. Police found no marijuana in the car, on the person in the driver's seat or following a full search of Mr. Cruz.

The court, referring to the 2008 ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, reasoned that, "voters read the arguments 'for' and 'against,' as well as the new law itself. Because we have the benefit of the written explanation in support of the initiative, the people's intent in answering Question 2 in the affirmative was clear: possession of one ounce or less of marijuana should not be considered a serious infraction worthy of criminal sanction."

So, the court continued, responding to a whiff of burnt marijuana with the same fervent police action "associated with the pursuit of serious criminal conduct is neither desired by the public nor in accord with the plain language of the statute."

At issue is the application of the timeless principles voiced in 1761 by James Otis, Jr. on behalf of Salem merchants against writs of assistance, which allowed searches of anyone and all their possessions for smuggled goods. John Adams, present when Otis made his case, incorporated these principles in his draft of a Declaration of Rights and Constitution adopted by the voters of Massachusetts in 1780.

These principles include the right of the people to alter their government, in this case by way of the initiative, and of the right retained upon entering civil society to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures not founded upon specific articulable facts establishing probable cause of criminal activity.

In 1817, President Adams reminisced that Otis was "a flame of fire" as he addressed the highest court of the colony, and his arguments "prophetic." Otis' argument so impressed him that he remembered that, "Every man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance." He called it "the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain."

So now, act one scene one of the opposition to arbitrary power and act one scene one of the War of Independence are linked by this decision that protects citizens' personal autonomy. Those who did not vote for Question 2 are no less safe, as the court makes clear that in appropriate circumstances -- absent in this case -- police retain the authority to investigate operator impairment and arrest for operating under the influence or to conduct an investigation of criminal activity.

Did the court deliberately release the decision on Patriots Day? I believe they did to remind us all of the lofty principles of Otis and the patriots. Principles neglected too often by too many when forming their opinions on court decisions that let a person disobedient of the laws of God or the laws of man go unpunished. This is a small price to pay in the words of Mr. Adams in Article 18 of the Declaration of Rights, "to preserve the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government."

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: North Shore Sunday (Beverly, MA)
Copyright: 2011 GateHouse Media,sInc.
Contact: northshore@cnc.com
Website: Homepage - Wicked Local, MA - North of Boston
Details: MAP: Media Directory
Author: Steven S. Epstein


New Member
Thank you for posting a follow up on this. My wife was the first one to clue me in to this ruling and I was all but jumping for joy and lighting up in public haha.

I think this is a very important step into getting people to begin accepting the advice of politicians who are standing up for both Hemp and Marijuana.
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