One year after Massachusetts voters decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, local police, apparently unable to adjust to the new reality, are still busily trying to find ways around the law. Now Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas is proposing two ordinances to ban “public consumption” of cannabis.
Violators of the proposed public consumption ordinance would be fined $300 for each offense, reports Shannon Young at The Boston Globe
Police Commissioner Haas is also proposing another new ordinance to fine individuals who provide a false identity to a police officer when being issued a citation. Apparently a lot of stoners have been making up fictitious names and addresses and giving them to the cops to avoid paying the $100 ticket for possession that is the norm since decrim.
Violators of the proposed false name or address ordinance would be fined $200, in addition to the $100 fine for pot possession.
Cambridge police claim the ordinances are “necessary” to respond to what they claim is a “significant increase” in “public use of marijuana” in the city. Clearly a major crisis!
And the cops whine that it is just too challenging to control the “problem” armed only with the $100 civil citations available since voters changed the pot law in Massachusetts.
A September 2010 report from the Cambridge Police Department found that the number of people under 18 cited for possession of one ounce or less of pot has gone up from five in 2009 to 13 by the end of August 2010.
The report additionally claims that “adult citations for 2010 are also on pace to surpass the number from last year,” with 21 adults cited in 2009 and 15 adults cited by the end of August 2010.
While the cops claim this is evidence to suggest an increase in pot use in Cambridge, the more likely scenario is that the police, nostalgic for the old ways when marijuana was worse against the law, are just unable to let go and stop hassling potheads.
Opponents of the new ordinances say that adding more fines won’t have any effect on marijuana usage.
“Our efforts to enact these ordinances in Cambridge are aimed at enforcing the fine associated with the law and dealing with quality of life issues that surround public consumption of marijuana,” claimed Dan Rivello, a police spokesman.
Rivello said Cambridge police officers are “having difficulty” enforcing citations for possession of an ounce or less of pot. The horror!
Police say the state law offers no legal recourse against an individual who refuses to give his or her name, or who provides a fake name and address.
“This is highly problematic for our officers in enforcing state law as obtaining a verifiable name and address is essential in ensuring that offenders comply with the law and enforcing the civil fine,” Rivello said. I wonder if his ass hurts? Just sayin’.
The police need to have more scientific evidence and hard facts than those in the report to back up their claims that pot use is becoming more of a problem in Cambridge, according to Michael Crawford, a Cambridge resident and president of MassCann
, the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.
“It seemed like the police were trying to make a political case,” said Crawford, who attended the first public hearing about the new ordinances.
Crawford said he believes that even if the ordinances go into effect, there will be little change in the number of tickets issued.
“The only effect I can think it will have will be that people may not know of the change in the fine and won’t be able to pay it, resulting in a criminal offense,” Crawford said.
Cambridge City Councilor Denise Simmons agrees with Crawford that the City Council needs more evidence of an increase in marijuana usage before they could vote on the ordinances.
Simmons, who hosted the first public hearing on October 21, said she hopes to use the next hearing on marijuana by the Public Safety Committee as a way to educate the community on the current law and the fines associated with pot possession.
“High school students believed that the decriminalization of marijuana meant that you could smoke it outside,” Simmons said, reports Brian P. Nanos of Wicked Local Cambridge
The hearing, with no date yet set, will invite parents, youths, police, and a local professor to discuss better ways to educate the community about cannabis.