2008 Information For Voters

QUESTION 2: Law Proposed by Initiative Petition

Possession of Marijuana

Do you approve of a law summarized below, on which no vote was taken by the Senate or the House of Representatives before May 6, 2008?


As required by law, summaries are written by the State Attorney General, and the statements describing the effect of a "yes" or "no" vote are written jointly by the State Attorney General and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

This proposed law would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties, to be enforced by issuing citations, and would exclude information regarding this civil offense from the state's criminal record information system. Offenders age 18 or older would be subject to forfeiture of the marijuana plus a civil penalty of $100. Offenders under the age of 18 would be subject to the same forfeiture and, if they complete a drug awareness program within one year of the offense, the same $100 penalty.

Offenders under 18 and their parents or legal guardian would be notified of the offense and the option for the offender to complete a drug awareness program developed by the state Department of Youth Services. Such programs would include ten hours of community service and at least four hours of instruction or group discussion concerning the use and abuse of marijuana and other drugs and emphasizing early detection and prevention of substance abuse.

The penalty for offenders under 18 who fail to complete such a program within one year could be increased to as much as $1,000, unless the offender showed an inability to pay, an inability to participate in such a program, or the unavailability of such a program. Such an offender's parents could also be held liable for the increased penalty. Failure by an offender under 17 to complete such a program could also be a basis for a delinquency proceeding.

The proposed law would define possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as including possession of one ounce or less of tetrahydrocannibinol ("THC"), or having metabolized products of marijuana or THC in one's body.

Under the proposed law, possessing an ounce or less of marijuana could not be grounds for state or local government entities imposing any other penalty, sanction, or disqualification, such as denying student financial aid, public housing, public financial assistance including unemployment benefits, the right to operate a motor vehicle, or the opportunity to serve as a foster or adoptive parent. The proposed law would allow local ordinances or bylaws that prohibit the public use of marijuana, and would not affect existing laws, practices, or policies concerning operating a motor vehicle or taking other actions while under the influence of marijuana, unlawful possession of prescription forms of marijuana, or selling, manufacturing, or trafficking in marijuana.

The money received from the new civil penalties would go to the city or town where the offense occurred.


A YES VOTE would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties.

A NO VOTE would make no change in state criminal laws concerning possession of marijuana.

See Full Text of Question 2


As provided by law, the 150-word arguments are written by proponents and opponents of each question, and reflect their opinions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not endorse these arguments, and does not certify the truth or accuracy of any statement made in these arguments. The names of the individuals and organizations who wrote each argument, and any written comments by others about each argument, are on file in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

IN FAVOR: A YES vote removes the threat of arrest, jail, loss of student loans, loss of driver's licenses, and other sanctions for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Instead, a $100 fine, similar to a speeding ticket, would be imposed. Question 2 would end the creation of a permanent record (CORI) and barriers to housing and employment. Police would be freed up to focus on serious crimes, rather than arresting 7,500 people annually for marijuana possession. Taxpayers would save $30 million a year in arrest costs. All other marijuana-related crimes, like sales or DUIs, remain untouched. Stricter than current law, juveniles would have their parent(s) notified and must complete a drug awareness program and community service. Question 2 would not increase marijuana use. Eleven other states have similar laws and have shown no increase in marijuana use. Let the punishment fit the crime. Vote "YES" on Question 2.

Authored by:
Whitney A. Taylor, Campaign Manager
Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy
P.O. Box 130151
Boston, MA 02113

AGAINST: Marijuana decriminalization is an endorsement of substance abuse and dangerous criminal activity, and sends the wrong message to young people. Massachusetts law already requires our judges to dismiss charges and seal records of first-time offenders. Decriminalization emboldens and enables drug dealers and poses a threat to public health and safety. One ounce of marijuana - street value $600 - equates to approximately 56 individual sales. Marijuana contains nine times the mind-altering THC as 30 years ago, is twice as carcinogenic as tobacco, is a primary factor in juvenile hospital admissions, and its users are 10 times more likely to be involved in automobile crashes. It is more strongly associated with juvenile crime than alcohol. A large percentage of criminal arrestees (approximately 40%) test positive for marijuana. Decriminalization is opposed by law enforcement, educators, health care, business and community leaders. Massachusetts District Attorneys, Sheriffs and Police Chiefs urge your NO vote.

Authored by:
Michael O'Keefe
District Attorney for the Cape and Islands
President, Massachusetts
District Attorneys Association
1 Bulfinch Place, Suite 202
Boston, MA 02114