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Pot and The Ballot Box


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Massachusetts - The great pot debate, in this case as to whether or not the state's penalty for minor pot possession should be reduced from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, is unlikely to be settled at the ballot box this November even if the issue makes it there in the form of a referendum question.

The Legislature has already shown that for good (reducing the state income tax) or ill (initiating public funding of campaigns), it will ignore referendum questions if it sees fit. If change is to come, it will be with the impetus of lawmakers.

The Boston-based Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy wants Massachusetts to join the 12 other states that have reduced penalties for marijuana. New York is the nearest, and there is no evidence that reefer madness has overcome the Empire State. The proposal is not as radical as, for example, legalizing marijuana, which no state can do anyway because it would violate federal laws regulating the drug.

The argument that marijuana is a gateway drug to cocaine or heroine is not backed by incontrovertible evidence. If it were, first offenders would not have their cases dismissed with probation, as is regularly the case. Berkshire County and Massachusetts law enforcement officers have a realistic perspective on marijuana use, and a ballot question, a blunt instrument when subtlety is required, is not the way to change drug laws.

The state's mandatory sentencing law for drug sales within a school zone, the source for the controversial Great Barrington drug arrests in 2003, is a bad law, however, because it removes sentencing discretion from judges and mandates tough sentences for minor offenses. We once again urge the Legislature to repeal it.

We also urge the Legislature to legalize the use of marijuana for certain illnesses, such as cancer and AIDS. These actions would outweigh any ballot tampering with drug laws.

Source: Berkshire Eagle,The (Pittsfield MA)
Copyright: 2008 New England Newspapers,Inc.
Contact: letters@berkshireeagle.com
Website: Berkshire Eagle Online - Home
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