Marijuana advocates stepped up to block the feds from using state resources and already have critics. Among them, an adviser to the CCC. Chief John Carmichael took to twitter to comment on the Globe’s article reporting the “Refusal of Complicity Act” as, “Unnecessary…& sets bad precedent. Totality of circumstances should be considered and policies should be established by Chiefs.”
So, what does that mean, policies should be established by chiefs? Let’s look at what policies are and how they are different from laws:
Policy is the plan a governing body uses to set out the goals and procedures. Laws are binding rules enforced by appointed authorities and upheld by the courts.
“A policy outlines what a government ministry hopes to achieve and the methods and principles it will use to achieve them. It states the goals of the ministry. A policy document is not a law, but it will often identify new laws needed to achieve its goals. Laws set out standards, procedures and principles that must be followed. If a law is not followed, those responsible for breaking them can be prosecuted in court.”
Laws are created around policy, but what happens when laws are changed? Do police chiefs immediately work on policies to reflect changes in the law? Or do we see selective enforcement from those outdated in their policies?
Will Luzier, Political Director for Marijuana Policy Project of Mass, helped draft the bill filed just over a week ago stating, “A policy established by local chiefs will Balkanize the state, leading to a patchwork of enforcement where prohibitionist federal law is enforced in one town and not in a neighboring town.”
And he is absolutely right. Track records show we need preventative action. Without clear language on what state and local officials can go after, patients and adult users are subject to this inconsistent enforcement.
On September 13, 2016, five men showed up to a Wendell residents home unannounced with no search warrant and left with ten flowering medical marijuana plants. Massachusetts law states: (H) Cultivation and storage of marijuana shall be in an enclosed, locked area accessible only to the registered qualifying patient or his or her personal caregiver(s), subject to 105 CMR 725.650. Marijuana shall not be visible from the street or other public areas. Both residents were medical marijuana patients, lawfully growing outside in their enclosed, locked backyard, only accessible by them, and not visible from the street. This was four years after medical marijuana laws passed, yet police were spending resources on enforcement.
Four months after recreational marijuana was legalized in Mass, people were still getting arrested for cannabis related offenses; anywhere from possession to distribution. No arraignments were issued for possession above the legal limit. Other court records show police were refusing to give back confiscated pot even if it was legal to possess.
“Officers in some departments are not returning confiscated marijuana, even if it’s within the legal amount allowed by law. Police chiefs are quick to note that marijuana is still classified as a Class D controlled substance that is illegal to possess under federal law.”
Law enforcement were specifically citing federal law to justify their use of resources and deny Massachusetts residents their rights. Rights they voted for.
These are clear cut examples of Massachusetts local and state police using federal law as an excuse to selectively enforce state law. It is one thing to expect enforcement with illegal sales, but another for not returning confiscated product owned legally.
We have valid reasons for preventative language that legislators agree with. Despite what some feel entitled to believe based on their position, it is necessary for law enforcement. We can have patience with the unfortunate history of reefer madness, but not from someone who sits on the advisory board.
We truly hope all advisers and the CCC never stop learning. We ask they keep an open mind about the industry they are appointed to control and their best to separate facts from fears.