Two weeks ago somebody called to my attention the fact that the second Massachusetts ballot question on November 4th, 2008 will consider whether Massachusetts will de-criminalize the possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. The exact wording and nature of this ballot question can be seen by clicking here:

The first thing that shocked me when I heard about it was that, up until this point, there was no discernable debate on the subject. Nobody was talking about it. It was a stealth ballot question, too taboo to bring up. My first ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to it was “why ease up on another vice?” Our children have access to alcohol (behind our backs) already so why make another vice any easier for them. Then I started to look into issue closer.

What the law tries to do is to make the crime fit the punishment. The central key aspect to this legal change is that possession of less than one ounce would take the crime out of the CORI system That is; the offense would not be listed on the individual's Criminal Record Information System (CORI) record.

Why is this important?

Our children, as they get older, become more individualized and less under our control. No matter what the values that are taught, no matter how strict one might be (which can also backfire), our children will do what they want to do as they come of age and I, for one, would rather my child not face a scarlet letter of a CORI mark which can "create huge barriers to getting a job, finding housing, and getting school loans."

See this article (which does a nice job on presenting both sides of the issue)…

In terms of punishment fitting the crime, here are some things to consider:

 In Singapore, one ‘joint’ will get you death by hanging by the neck. It happens. A story I’m aware of is of a young married Australian couple flying from Sydney to Tokyo and the plane is forced to land in Singapore due to bad weather. The Singapore police decide to do a random, dog-sniffing test on the plane locked passengers and the Australian man is found with a small amount of pot. The man is taken into custody, the woman (the new bride) is sent home and her husband is hanged. The Australian government could do nothing for him and they tried. This is an extreme case but does anybody believe that death by handing was equal to a small amount of pot?
 People are rotting in Texas jails for decades for similar crimes. Again, extreme by Massachusetts standards but does anybody believe that 20 years in a Texas prison is worth possession of less than an ounce of marijuana?
 In Massachusetts we have CORI. You don’t go to jail for 20 years or get hanged you just wear a scarlet letter which prevents you from living up to your full potential as you go through life. Again, I would prefer my kid would get fined and a scolding rather than a CORI black mark.

Does anybody believe that a CORI lifelong black mark is worth that crime?

Tangentially, this discussion is something like the debate on teaching safe sex vs. abstinence. (Yes they are different subjects but there are some striking similarities.)

One could take the tact that they don’t want their kids having sex until they are married. Clearly that’s would be the highroad and/or the politically correct way to look at it. But did ‘we’ wait… all of us – any of us? If my kid – no; when my kid has sex it will occur without my knowledge and at a time and place that I have no control over. I would prefer that my kid be safeguarded from pregnancy and disease. So I teach safe sex because I’m pragmatic.

Where is the analogy? I will make the assumption that kids will experiment, not all, but significant numbers and I would prefer that, in the event that they are caught, they NOT have a CORI black mark. Because, pregnancy, disease and CORI can all be very permanent.

It took me quite a bit to gather the courage to broach this subject in an audience of my peers. This board is filled with highly intelligent, highly opinionated and very thoughtful people who do get angry at each other but have the capacity to extend their hands in friendship and forgiveness.

I can think of no better forum to go to – to ask all of my friends for their words of wisdom on Massachusetts Ballot Question #2 because I’m frankly very torn on this one.

Like it or not, the decision to de-criminalize less than one ounce of marijuana is now 34 days away and we will be living with the consequences of that decision, however it goes.

One last thing – this source

Handicaps the passage of this ballot question to be 60% in favor.

Who will step forward and provide us with their words of wisdom on this subject?