Massachusetts may soon become the thirteenth state to decriminalize the possession of marijuana, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition,
The House of Representatives has assigned a judiciary committee to review a bill that would change the punishment for those found in possession of marijuana. Instead of being a criminal offense, it would become more like a traffic ticket for anyone possessing less than an ounce, and would be punished strictly by fine.
Twelve other states have already passed similar laws and NORML and MassCann hope that by May of this year, Massachusetts will also do the same.
The effect this would have on Northeastern's policy is unclear at the time. Renata Nyul, the assistant director of communications and public relations at Northeastern said the administration is not concerned yet.
"Marijuana is currently an illegal drug and we are not planning for that to change," Nyul said. "If this does happen, we will have to address it in terms with the law."
Many students, however, have actively advocated the passing of a law like this one, including the Northeastern chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy ( SSDP ), which, despite attempts, is not a student group.
Kevin Wadsworth, a middler biology major who started the chapter, helped campaign and collect signatures to promote the new law, along with other students.
Wadsworth said the current law causes problems. "It makes people use drugs in secret which is the worse thing possible because that just confirms the stereotypes when there's such a broad range of people doing it," he said. "There's also no guarantee about who will get caught and there's no consistency. Someone who smokes everyday might not ever get caught but someone who smokes once a week might and that isn't doing any good."
Because the details and implications of this law are still fuzzy, some students oppose the passing of it.
Hiba, a freshman biology major does not see the importance of the drug. She didn't want to give her last name because of privacy.
"I'm sure a lot of people still use [marijuana] despite the legal issues, but with harsher consequences, they are more likely to think twice before using it," she said.
On the other hand, some students see no deterrence in current marijuana laws and no reason to punish those who use it.
"A lot of money is spent on punishing marijuana offenders who are only in possession and are not criminally dangerous," said senior psychology and English major Chris Coughlin. "It's not deterring anything and it's just as bad as alcohol or tobacco."
Alex Faust, a freshman political science major, said he thinks the short term effects of the law may be less beneficial than long term effects.
"If this law passes, there's going to be a lot of people going out and using it [marijuana] right away. But long term, the novelty will wear off and reverse psychology will kick in and it won't be as popular I don't think," Faust said.
The long term effects of similar laws in other states are yet to be determined since the law is so new. Advocates, however, see the effects to be promising.
The law will only be applied to those over the age of 18. In that sense, punishment for possession would be like an alcohol or tobacco citation.
Some students believe this is a necessary amendment.
"I know that young people are very easily influenced," Hiba said. "They would try something without being fully aware of its effects and that needs to be taken into consideration."
Newshawk: Students Fight Back - http://www.SchoolsNotPrisons.com
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Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jan 2008
Source: Northeastern News, The (Northeastern U, MA Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Northeastern News
Author: Lisa Newman