6 months ago Massachusetts decriminalized cannabis possession, imposing a $100 fine/citation instead of criminal penalties. Now it appears that police are almost ready to give up issuing the citations because people are simply refusing to pay.
Thumbing their noses at the state’s lax new pot law, Bay State stoners are brazenly lighting up in front of cops and then refusing to pay fines – leading some frustrated police chiefs to all but give up the fight.
Local police report widespread defiance of the six-month-old law, and a Herald review shows a vast majority of potheads cited by cops blowing off their $100 fines.
All told, a staggering 83 percent of 415 tokers cited in Boston since the law took effect in January have refused to pony up the $100, a Herald review shows.
In Braintree, 15 of 28 citations went unpaid, while in Brookline 26 of 33 blew off the fines.
Somerville Deputy Chief Paul Upton said his officers are now writing few if any citations, in part because enforcing the law costs more money than it’s worth.
“If we send an officer to court, it’s going to cost us $250,” Upton said. “We’re not getting a lot of (citations) written.”
In Milton, Chief Wells said the new pot law is unenforceable because there’s nothing encouraging scofflaws to pay fines or even give their real names to police.
Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless, head of the state prosecutors group that fought against relaxing pot sanctions, said, “It’s exactly what we were afraid of, and what we predicted would happen. They’d issue citations, and they’d be ignored.”
Proponents argued pot convictions made youthful indiscretions into lifelong liabilities. But while unpaid parking tickets can cost drivers their licenses, unpaid pot fines carry no repercussions.
“There’s nothing that can happen,” Capeless said.
The law allows non-payers to be taken to Court, but the only penalty that can be imposed on them is the $100 fine.
If Canada ever resurrects the notion of decriminalization, this model is one that should be looked at as providing a workable interim solution on the way to outright legalization.