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New Marijuana Laws are Official--Why Don't Cops Understand?

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By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

On election day 2008, 63 percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, legalizing the possession, cultivation, and use of cannabis by qualified patients. Over three million voters decide ‘yes’ on the measure, which won in all of the state’s 83 counties.

As of December 4, 2008, Proposal 1 is now Michigan state law. But don’t tell that to Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler, who recently told reporters, “We’re just not sure how it’s going to shake out. … It’s going to be business as usual until we’re told different.”

Actually, sir, you have been “told different.” (Well, “told differently” were the Sheriff to use proper grammar.) Three million of Michigan voters, the folks you are sworn to ‘protect and serve,’ definitively told you: Medical marijuana is legal in Michigan. Like it or not, the law — you know the rules you’re sworn to uphold — says so.

Meanwhile, police officials in Massachusetts — where 65 percent of voters approved legislation reducing penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of pot to a civil infraction — are also feigning ignorance.

Confusion cited over marijuana law, via The Republican
Agawam Police Chief Robert D. Campbell said there is a tremendous amount of confusion about the law.

He said he had no information on how to issue fines or write citations. He said he is unsure who would conduct hearings on appeals of citations for marijuana possession. “Somebody has to come up with a mechanism,” the chief said.

If you listen closely you may be able to hear the world’s smallest violin playing just for Police Chief Campbell. Seriously, Massachusetts cops write citations for other offenses that the state defines as infractions, right? I mean, this is not a new concept in policing is it? And really, if these cops and District Attorneys are so ‘confused,’ why don’t any of them take a moment to actually read the new law? All they have to do is log on to the Internet and go here.

Finally, there’s this related news story from Missoula, Montana. As you may recall, in 2006 53 percent of county voters approved a law recommending police to make the enforcement of marijuana possession laws their ‘lowest priority.’ Fat chance.

Missoula Marijuana Arrests Up, Report Suggests,
via New West Missoula

A report released Wednesday suggests a jump in marijuana offenses in Missoula County compared to last year, despite the passage in 2006 of Initiative 2, the “marijuana initiative,” which made adult misdemeanor marijuana offenses the County’s lowest law enforcement priority.

Marijuana incidents in the City of Missoula, the County and on the University of Montana campus are up 27 percent, the report estimates; 63 percent in the city alone. The numbers are stark enough for the Community Oversight Committee that compiled the report (PDF) to conclude: “The voters’ recommendation is apparently being ignored by most of the officials in a position to heed it.”

Just a few points to ponder next time you hear your local sheriff claiming, “We don’t make the laws; we just enforce them.” Now please pardon me while I go throw up.



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