The Law Is The Law Is The Law: What Part Of This Concept Don’t Cops Understand?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 8, 2008

    On election day 2008, 63 percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, legalizing the possession, cultivation, and use of cannabis by qualified patients. Over three million voters decide ‘yes’ on the measure, which won in all of the state’s 83 counties.

    As of December 4, 2008, Proposal 1 is now Michigan state law. But don’t tell that to Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler, who recently told reporters, “We’re just not sure how it’s going to shake out. … It’s going to be business as usual until we’re told different.”

    Actually, sir, you have been “told different.” (Well, “told differently” were the Sheriff to use proper grammar.) Three million of Michigan voters, the folks you are sworn to ‘protect and serve,’ definitively told you: Medical marijuana is legal in Michigan. Like it or not, the law — you know the rules you’re sworn to uphold — says so.

    Meanwhile, police officials in Massachusetts — where 65 percent of voters approved legislation reducing penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of pot to a civil infraction — are also feigning ignorance.

    Confusion cited over marijuana law
    via The Republican

    Agawam Police Chief Robert D. Campbell said there is a tremendous amount of confusion about the law.

    He said he had no information on how to issue fines or write citations. He said he is unsure who would conduct hearings on appeals of citations for marijuana possession. “Somebody has to come up with a mechanism,” the chief said.

    If you listen closely you may be able to hear the world’s smallest violin playing just for Police Chief Campbell. Seriously, Massachusetts cops write citations for other offenses that the state defines as infractions, right? I mean, this is not a new concept in policing is it? And really, if these cops and District Attorneys are so ‘confused,’ why don’t any of them take a moment to actually read the new law? All they have to do is log on to the Internet and go here.

    Finally, there’s this related news story from Missoula, Montana. As you may recall, in 2006 53 percent of county voters approved a law recommending police to make the enforcement of marijuana possession laws their ‘lowest priority.’ Fat chance.

    Missoula Marijuana Arrests Up, Report Suggests
    via New West Missoula

    A report released Wednesday suggests a jump in marijuana offenses in Missoula County compared to last year, despite the passage in 2006 of Initiative 2, the “marijuana initiative,” which made adult misdemeanor marijuana offenses the County’s lowest law enforcement priority.

    Marijuana incidents in the City of Missoula, the County and on the University of Montana campus are up 27 percent, the report estimates; 63 percent in the city alone.

    The numbers are stark enough for the Community Oversight Committee that compiled the report (PDF) to conclude: “The voters’ recommendation is apparently being ignored by most of the officials in a position to heed it.”

    Just a few points to ponder next time you hear your local sheriff claiming, “We don’t make the laws; we just enforce them.” Now please pardon me while I go throw up.

    35 responses to “The Law Is The Law Is The Law: What Part Of This Concept Don’t Cops Understand?”

    1. Vasoi says:

      well said

    2. wayne says:

      so in MAss when does this actually take effect? ive herd 31 days from the election is this correct thanx.

    3. Jake says:

      Any news on whether the vote in MA will even go into effect as law? Last we all heard, the results had been certified on Wednesday, but MA law allows them to amend/repeal them….

    4. Here in Missoula Montana, there are two active local law enforcement agencies — the city police and the county sheriff’s dept. It’s the city police who (by the numbers) seem to have increased their reporting of marijuana incidents by 60+% since the initiative passed. This may be particularly disappointing to city residents, where the lowest priority initiative passed with a vote of 80%+ in some precincts. You can view the map here: http://i2files.montanadrugpolicy.org/

      So…. 80% of voters in big swaths of the city recommended lowest priority for pot, and pot citations in the city increased!

      Next step for Montana NORML is to rally members to put pressure on our mayor (http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/mayor/) and city council (http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/citycouncil/) to formally adopt a lowest priority policy at the city level, since the passage of Missoula County Initiative #2 obviously hasn’t brought about the changes the voters asked for.

    5. med says:

      A Police State has members of law enforcement making up the rules as they go to make the job easy and fun. They don’t like to be told that their fun is about to end… especially from the citizen’s that pay their wages. Or they may have forgotten that this country is supposed to be a Democracy… with a capital D.

    6. anonymous says:

      this is retarded….The FEDERAL Law is not overridden by STATE law. The same issue came up in California when medicinal marijuana was prescribed to patients and they were later fired from their jobs even though they provided documentation that they were on the drug as issued by the hospital. The state is not allowed to override federal laws and whatever Michigan does it doesn’t matter since the FEDERAL law takes priority…

    7. Dan says:

      Lol. I just commented on change.org the other day about this in Michigan.

      This just in from Google Alerts…

      MAssachusetts Passed decriminization in EVERY county!
      Police don’t know what to do!!!

      Confusion cited over marijuana law
      Thursday, December 04, 2008
      By DAN RING dring@repub.com

      BOSTON – Amid confusion among police and prosecutors, a voter-approved law to decriminalize the possession of marijuana goes into effect on Jan. 2, according to a spokeswoman for the state attorney general.

      The date was set after the Governor’s Council on Wednesday voted to certify the results of the Nov. 4 election including a ballot question to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.

      The question was approved by 65 percent to 35 percent statewide and passed in every county in the state.

      Emily J. LaGrassa, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the ballot question takes effect 30 days after the officials results are presented to the Governor’s Council.

      In an e-mail on Wednesday, she said Jan. 2 is the date the law takes effect.

      Agawam Police Chief Robert D. Campbell said there is a tremendous amount of confusion about the law.

      He said he had no information on how to issue fines or write citations. He said he is unsure who would conduct hearings on appeals of citations for marijuana possession.

      “Somebody has to come up with a mechanism,” the chief said. Geline W. Williams, executive director of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said there are some “very, very significant” problems with putting the law into effect.

      Amherst Town Meeting member Terence J. Franklin, who supports Question 2, said the new law should be easy to put in place.

      “Why not just leave people alone?” Franklin added. “What’s the big deal? That will solve all the worries.”

      According to a legal bulletin provided by the state’s Trial Court to the state’s district courts, Question 2 replaces criminal penalties with civil penalties for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.

      A violator will be issued a civil citation and must either pay $100 civil penalty to a city or town clerk or request a civil hearing before a clerk or a judge.

      A copy of the citation must be sent to parents of any violator younger than 18.

      Such teenagers are also required within one year to attend a drug awareness program, the bulletin said.

      Terrell W. Harris, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety, said official guidance on the law will be provided before it goes into effect.

      Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke is working on the effort with the attorney general and law enforcement agencies. “There is nothing I can say publicly right now,” Harris said.

      Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett said last month he would drop all pending charges of possessing an ounce or less of marijuana. Bennett said he would not prosecute new cases after Nov. 4.

      Bennett said he would honor the spirit of the ballot question before it legally takes effect.

      Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said there are very serious issues that need to be resolved before the new law starts operating.

      “I think that people are going to wake up to the fact that this wasn’t the very simple piece of legislation it was sold to them as,” Capeless said.

      Material from the State House News Service was used for this report.


      Like leaving people alone or just writing a new name on a ticket is really that hard to figure out. APPARENTLY they have ‘”very, very significant” problems with putting the law into effect.’.



      Posted by Daniel on 12/04/2008 @ 11:40AM PST

      The police are acting stupid.

    8. Dan says:

      …Massachusetts Rather. Too many M states having cannabis trouble lately. I’m sorry for the confusion.


    9. Mahakal says:

      I’d hope that the courts would tell the police what the law is.

    10. mark says:

      With a high school diploma and 9 weeks of training, you to can shoot to kill. The problem is, pot heads are easy targets, they don’t fight back, nor have a gun. Most arrest are under the age of 30 with little money for a lawyer nor an understanding of how the legal system is set up to take your money and possibly your future.
      If the people want a law changed and they change it, then the police have to adide. Or, can “we” arrest them if they do not follow the laws.