NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the Massachusetts Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 18, urging the court to place more limits on police questioning and searches for possession of small amounts marijuana. Attorneys Steven S. Epstein, of Georgetown, and Marvin Cable, of Northampton, authored the brief.
In Western Massachusetts, a judge ruled that based on the odor of raw marijuana an officer could question the defendant about the presence of marijuana and seize a bag of marijuana at the direction of defendant in response to those questions. She reasoned, “a strong odor of marijuana to the officers training and experience triggered a suspicion that there was more than one ounce present.” That suspicion justified asking the Defendant about it and police entering his car to retrieve the marijuana he told them was there.
She further ruled that once police retrieved that bag they lacked the authority to search for more marijuana. She reasoned that a belief the bag was “probably” a criminal amount alone and combined with an officer’s characterization of the odor as “strong” amounted to nothing more than a “hunch.” She ordered the “other bags and the statements subsequently made by the defendant” could not be used at trial. The state appealed.
In its friend of the court brief, NORML reminds the Court of the precarious constitutionality of marijuana prohibition. It then proceeds to ask the Court to rule that: a police officer may not question a person about possible marijuana in his possession or control based only on the officer’s perception of odor, a civil violation in Massachusetts; and, that absent objectively reasonable evidence derived from weighing a bag suspected of containing over an ounce police may not detain, arrest or search a person or their possessions.
NORML argues the citizens of Massachusetts by voting to decriminalize an ounce or less of marijuana do not want police bothering people with anything more than a ticket when there are no articulated facts that a suspected possession of marijuana is criminal in nature. One of the intents of the decriminalization law was to free police to pursue more pressing issues than marijuana possession.
Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Overmyer is scheduled for March 3, with a decision possible before the summer of 2014.
The initiative, Question 1, would remove all criminal and civil penalties for adults possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. This means no arrest, no criminal record, no citation, no fine. We know we can win on Election Day and pass this initiative, which would send a clear message down the East Coast that the people in this region are ready to move forward on legalizing marijuana.
You can help make that victory a reality. Our allies at Just Say Now have launched an online phone banking tool which allows anyone across the country to log in and begin calling Portland voters to encourage their support for the issue. A script and talking points will be provided and you can help us by making as many calls to voters as you can, any amount helps inch us closer to the finish line.
Click here to sign up and begin calling Portland voters in support of Question 1 today!
Vote Yes on Question 1, Legalize Marijuana in Portland.
One of, if not the, highest profile election this year is the Virginia gubernatorial race. Things are beginning to heat up as we enter the final two month stretch before the election on November 5th and NORML thought it was worth looking at how the issue of marijuana law reform has come into play.
There are three candidates on the ballot vying for the position: Terry McAuliffe (Democrat), Ken Cuccinelli (Republican), and Robert Sarvis (Libertarian).
In an interview with a local FOX affiliate, Sarvis elaborated on his position, stating “I think these [marijuana] laws … are very expensive to enforce. They do a lot of damage to families and communities. They lead to high incarceration rates and unemployment rates when people can’t get jobs.”
You can read his drug policy platform here.Republican Ken Cuccinelli made some statements about marijuana policy early in the campaign, but has largely remained silent since the beginning of this year and has not answered specifics such as which measures, if any, he would support and sign into law.
Responding to a student question while speaking to a class at the University of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli said he was “evolving” on the marijuana issue.
“I don’t have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing I think that’s the role of states,” Cuccinelli stated, “I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [re: marijuana legalization], but I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out.”
“What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It’s been phenomenally expensive.”
Discussing the issue at a later event, Cuccinelli said that, “[If we are] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who’s pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I’ll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal.”
He stated that “I’m ready to watch and learn. I’m not ready to do it [legalize marijuana] but I don’t want to just never ever say never to the possibility in the future.”
He clarified this isn’t an issue he expects to take up if he wins the election. “I don’t want you to think that I’m going to land in the governor’s office and sign a legalization bill. I don’t think you have to worry about it getting to the governor’s desk but it’s worth knowing what your candidate’s saying.”The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has not issued any statements or formalized positions on marijuana law reform.
Join NORML in asking the candidates to clarify their positions when it comes to marijuana!
Click here to contact the McAuliffe campaign and here to contact the Cuccinelli campaign.
Below is a template letter you can send or personalize as you see fit:
“As a Virginia voter, I believe one of the most important issues facing our state is its failed war against marijuana. Before I decide which candidate to support this November, I’d like you to clarify your position on marijuana law reform.
Would you support legislation to allow for the medical use of cannabis and provide Virginia’s seriously ill patients with safe access to a medicine with fewer side effects and no risk of fatal overdose compared with conventional narcotic medications?
Would you support decriminalizing the possession of marijuana and halting the arrests of over 18,000 Virginians annually at the cost of 67 million dollars per year?
Would you consider supporting a regulated system for the adult use of marijuana, taking the profits away from criminal cartels, putting control in the hands of regulated businesses, and implementing age restrictions and regulations to decrease youth access?
This is an issue that is inversely impacting countless thousands of Virginians. It erodes our civil liberties and wastes over 67 million dollars a year to arrest non-violent cannabis consumers. I’d appreciate hearing your position on this important matter.”
@TerryMcAuliffe Would you support medical marijuana? Decrim? Legalization? You can help end 18k mj arrests per year and save $67mil annually
— NORML (@NORML) September 6, 2013
@KenCuccinelli Would you support medical marijuana? Decrim? Legalization? You can help end 18k mj arrests per year and save $67mil annually
— NORML (@NORML) September 6, 2013
Note: We are not including Libertarian Robert Sarvis as a target for these messages, as he already has formalized and publicized his marijuana policy position. If you wish to contact that campaign you can view his website here and Twitter page here.
You can get involved with marijuana law reform in the Commonwealth by following Virginia NORML here.
Recent polling data released by the Boston Globe has Massachusetts’ Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 3, winning by a landslide.
A survey of 502 likely Massachusetts voters, conducted between September 21 and September 27, has support for Question 3 at 69%, with just 22% opposed and 9% undecided. Every single demographic has majority support for the ballot question, with the lowest being Republicans at 51% and the highest being Democrats at 78%.
Take note presidential candidates, self identified Obama supporters back the initiative by 76% and Romney supporters by 51%. The people are ready for legalized access to medical cannabis, why aren’t you?
Read more information on the poll here.
Learn more information about cannabis and the 2012 election by reading NORML’s voter guide, Smoke the Vote.
Suffolk University, in conjuncture with 7NEWS, just released new polling data for Massachusetts’ medical marijuana initiative, Question 3. The new survey of 600 likely Massachusetts voters had support for the initiative at 59%, opposition at 35%, and 6% undecided. This poll was conducted from September 13th-16th. More details are available here.
This is an increase in support from previous polling released at the end of August, which had support at 58%, opposition at 27%, and undecided at 15%. Judging from the solid lead and continued upward trend in polling, it is very likely Massachusetts will become the 18th state to have legalized medical use of cannabis this fall.
Stay up to date on marijuana in the 2012 election by visiting NORML’s online voter guide “Smoke the Vote” here.