Massachusetts Legislature Considers Legalizing Marijuana

Massachusetts has had a law on the books decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use since 2008. Some state legislators are not stopping there. According to the Boston Herald, the proposed Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act would legalize marijuana and impose taxes on the new industry. Additionally, Massachusetts would create a seven-member Cannabis Control Authority using $2.5 million in initial state appropriations.

Decriminalization of Marijuana

The 2008 enactment of the Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative made possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil infraction subject to a $100 fine instead of criminal charges. Activities like smoking in public can increase the fine to $300. Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana is still illegal and can result in jail time and fines. Additionally, federal law does not recognize state laws legalizing marijuana.

Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is also a crime, as are distribution of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Even giving marijuana to someone for free, especially near a school or park, is illegal and can result in steep fines or a prison sentence, according to the Hopkinton Crier.

Proposed Massachusetts Legislation

The proposed law would go much further than decriminalization, setting up a legalized industry that the state would regulate and tax. The bill received a hearing at the legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary, but it is expected to fail - even its sponsor conceded that it is an attempt to lay the groundwork for future initiatives, according to Hawaii News Daily.

Critics of legalization argue that marijuana poses a threat to individual and public health and that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to drug abuse. Supporters of the proposed legislation believe law enforcement cannot stop production, distribution and use of marijuana, and that the state should instead start to regulate the industry to raise tax revenue and create jobs.

Massachusetts residents who have been arrested or charged with marijuana-related offenses should retain experienced and aggressive legal counsel who will fight for them and seek to have any illegally-obtained evidence against them excluded from their case.