Today is the 100th anniversary of Massachusetts’ first law interfering with free commerce in cannabis.

It was the first such state law in the nation. The 1911 law required a prescription from a physician. Massachusetts’ medical users would benefit from returning to the law of 1911.

That is what should have happened in 1992 following then-Gov. Weld’s approval of “An Act Providing for the Use of Marijuana in Therapeutic Research.” Unfortunately, unlike more recent laws adopted in 15 states and the District of Columbia, our law requires a federally approved source. Federal refusal to approve a supply makes it a cruel joke.

Since the voters decriminalized an ounce or less over two years ago, the fears of the “reefer mad” have not materialized. In what I do not believe was a coincidence, the state Supreme Judicial Court chose Patriots Day, April 19, 2011, to release its monumental ruling limiting the power of police to detain and search people based upon the odor of burnt marijuana. The decision makes it clear that operating a motor vehicle while impaired following consumption, remains a crime.

Left unanswered are other aspects of the law such as under what circumstances it would be appropriate to cite a person for possession based upon the odor of burnt marijuana; whether sharing small amounts with others is a crime; and the power of police who smell unburnt marijuana to seize persons and search. These issues and others will reach the court in coming years, even if Massachusetts takes the next step toward constitutional cannabis control and taxation.

There is precedent for doing so. In 1930, voters repealed Massachusetts’ prohibition on alcoholic beverages, replacing it with no law, leaving it to the feds to enforce the federal prohibition. When it comes to cannabis and adults, we should follow that precedent.

STEVEN S. EPSTEIN, ESQ.

Georgetown

READ MORE: Letter: Marijuana: State should follow Prohibition-era precedent
The Salem News, April 29, 2011

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