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The Registry of Dope Smokers

By a landslide margin, Massachusetts voters last week passed Question 2, a ballot initiative decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Even though the law will not take effect until 30 days after it is endorsed by the state's governor's council, it has already left law enforcement officials with anything but a case of the giggles. The problem, officials say, is that the initiative said nothing about how it should be administered and enforced. As Michael O'Keefe, district attorney on Cape Cod and president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, told the Cape Cod Times, while the state has a Registry of Motor Vehicles to collect speeding fines, "we don't have a registry of dope smokers in Massachusetts, and apparently we're going to have to create one in order to effectuate the statute."

The state's district attorneys were meeting this week to try to come up with a plan, and Attorney General Martha Coakley (who was otherwise occupied yesterday, arguing before the Supreme Court) said her office would play a role. "Question 2's passage not only authorizes the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, but also establishes a parallel civil regulatory structure that does not currently exist," she said in a statement. Other states that have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana handle administration in various ways, the Cape Cod Times article notes. In Maine, fines are assessed and collected through the court system. In Ohio, one can pay the fine through the mail or appear in court to contest the citation, similar to a speeding ticket.

Under the Massachusetts law, anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana must pay a $100 fine. Minors must also attend drug education and treatment classes and perform community service. Not only does this scheme raise questions about its administration, but it also creates a new set of questions for police officers who find someone with marijuana, says an article in The Berkshire Eagle. "Can we interview them? Can we interrogate them?" wonders a Pittsfield police captain. "It's going to be real tricky to figure out what this means, and there's no question that people are going to take advantage of this."

One outcome seems fair to predict: If you thought lines were slow at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, just wait until you see how the long wait seems at the Registry of Dope Smokers.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 11, 2008 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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