No on Question 2
If Question 2 is approved by voters, those caught with one ounce or less of marijuana would be subject to a $100 civil fine, and those under the age of 18 also would be required to complete a drug awareness program. This is far too light a penalty for what is a criminal act that enriches the major drug dealers who weaken a community. The current penalties are hardly Draconian, as possession currently results in fines of up to $500 and jail sentences of up to six months. Judges rarely impose sentences beyond probation and/or drug rehabilitation except for repeat convictions.
Proponents of Question 2 argue that a criminal conviction for possession of marijuana will haunt the guilty party for the rest of his or her life. The records of first-time offenders, however, are sealed and do not appear on the person's record, while those who are jailed or build a criminal record are most often guilty of repeated parole violations or other more serious crimes. If Question 2 advocates believe there are holes in the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) database they should fight for reform of the CORI system, not attempt to weaken drug laws.
Question 2 is not a grass-roots Massachusetts initiative but a product of the state's weak referendum system. The effort is funded largely by interests from outside the state, who are tempted by the low number of signatures required to win a place on the ballot. Our lax regulations have invited this social experiment, and if advocates want to open the door to the legalization of marijuana, as is apparently the case, they should make that argument.
The referendum process is not the way to make changes in drug policy, given their complexity, and in this case, changes are not called for. At a time when drug use is actually in decline, it would be irresponsible to pass a ballot initiative that would encourage its use, assuredly increase traffic accidents, health costs and law enforcement costs, add to a problem that already exists in our schools, and encourage the addiction that can ruin families and undermine neighborhoods. Question 2 should be rejected by voters.
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