Is Marijuana Prohibition in Massachusetts Bound to End?

In late August 2013, the United States Department of Justice announced that it is “deferring its right to challenge” the Colorado and Washington initiatives that “tax and regulate marijuana like alcoholic beverages.” This announcement indicates that the administration is willing to take another look at marijuana laws and discuss possible reform with Congress and the States.

It has been suggested that the states and Congress should adopt a “child-protection agricultural produce” model for the cultivating of marijuana.This model would make marijuana possession legal for adults only. The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition conducted a poll in 2011 and found that 58 percent of Massachusetts voters already support a similar model. The model would be sure to severely punish the distribution of marijuana to minors with significant jail time and/or fine, and would require adults to take serious precautions in order to prevent access to marijuana by minors.

Currently, possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in Massachusetts and is not punishable as a crime unless a person is in possession of more than one ounce. According to this suggested model, for those under the age of majority, it would remain a crime/delinquency to grow, sell, or possess over an ounce of marijuana and a civil offense to possess an ounce or less. Despite these changes, the model would have no affect on the “drug-free” schools policy and it would still be a crime to possess marijuana on school property. Also, by recognizing marijuana as the herb it is, all laws that now apply to selling fruits and vegetables (including regulation of fertilizers and pesticides, income tax and land use) would apply to those cultivating marijuana.

If Massachusetts chooses to follow this model there will be many changes within the Commonwealth. Though possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is already decriminalized, it is still a civil infraction. With this model, possession and use of marijuana will be completely legal for adults no matter the quantity. Those who are opposed to this model feel that this will be a gateway to other possible drugs being decriminalized and eventually legalized. Those who support this model believe that the regulation of marijuana throughout the Commonwealth can be as beneficial to the economy as the regulation of alcoholic beverages. Both sides to this argument have valid points and objections. It is only a matter of time before we see what the legislature decides to do in reference to Marijuana possession in the Commonwealth.