In its April 24 editorial, “Court ruling helps protect drug dealers,” The Standard-Times turns the state’s constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures on its head, because some criminals will escape detection.
The newspaper ignores the fact that the vast majority of citizens who possess marijuana are not now, and never were, deserving of criminal prosecution and punishment.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Supreme Judicial Court twice rejected constitutional challenges to marijuana prohibition, telling proponents of limiting the state’s exercise of power to change the law. This they did in 2008 and the court recognized that, in voting for Question 2, the people recognized that, going forward, marijuana possessors would not be committing a crime.
Therefore, in the absence of “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of criminal activity the marijuana possessor, if encountered by the police, reasonably expects to pay a fine, as Chief Justice Ireland explained in a footnote: “We do not expect a significant intrusion into our privacy and liberty.”
This decision, issued on Patriots’ Day, should remind all that in our state and nation, the purpose of government is “to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights, and the blessings of life.”
It should also remind us that our rights exist independent of the state.
In Massachusetts, our rights are set out in part in a Declaration of Rights and for the nation in the Bill of Rights. Finally, it should remind us all that when the smell of gunpowder lingered over battle road, the Spirit of 75 burned brightly.
Steven S. Epstein
Published: Court’s marijuana ruling a blow for liberty, Standard Times (New Bedford), May 3, 2011