Thursday, June 30, 2005
MA - Legislation to remove marijuana from the state’s criminal books won an endorsement from a top senator who said he believes people who make mistakes should not be penalized for life. Sen. Steven Tolman, D-Brighton, chairman of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee, said following a hearing on the bill that often times people have trouble receiving scholarships and financial aid when applying for college and getting jobs later in life if they were convicted of a crime as a kid.
“A lot of people make stupid mistakes,” Tolman said, “and they should not be punished forever.”
The legislation, pushed by the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts, has been floated on Beacon Hill for the last several sessions, but hit opposition from lawmakers and the Romney administration who fear decriminalizing marijuana would increase its prevalence and encourage use. But supporters say it would save the state’s judicial system an estimated $24.3 million in court costs, and point to the 11 other states that have taken similar steps without any negative effects. The bill would make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by people over the age of 17 punishable by a civil fine, rather than a criminal charge. Supporters of the bill say the nearly 71,000 people arrested in Massachusetts between 1995 and 2002 for possession of marijuana are subject to CORI laws and other criminal statutes that prevent people from receiving student loans, joining the military, and working for the government.