Massachusetts Lawmen Blame Pot Decrim for Increase in Murder

“Frustrated law enforcement officials” from Massachusetts are making some pretty outrageous claims in a highly dubious article (I’ve been waiting to use that pun) from the Boston Herald, demanding that “smoking weed is not a victimless crime” and linking pot decriminalization to murder.

Back in 2008, Massachusetts voters decriminalized marijuana, replacing any jail time with a $100 fine. Cops complained at the time that the new law provided no enforcement mechanism for collecting the cash.

Now they are boldly claiming the new rules are leading to an increase in pot-related murders:

“We knew it was going to be a nightmare for public safety and law enforcement. An ounce of marijuana can make a thousand joints,” Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. said. “Question 2 perpetuated a feeling that marijuana is somehow safer than other drugs. It’s another mind-altering substance. What are we doing in this country? Can’t anyone get through the day without a drink or a drug?”

Holy crap! Talk about an appeal to emotion.

And a thousand joints from an ounce? Is this guy for real? Has he ever even seen an ounce of pot? An ounce is 28 grams. One gram will get you two joints; three if you roll pinners. That’s no more than 84 joints.

Then the article continues with a list of marijuana murders:

• The Sept. 30 fatal shooting of Adam Coveney, 29, of Waltham. Four men, including a Newton North High School senior, have been charged in connection with the alleged dealer robbery and murder.

• The Sept. 28 massacre of four people in Mattapan — among them, a 21-year-old woman and her 2-year-old son — allegedly in a pot-dealing turf dispute.

• The May 2009 fatal shooting of Justin Cosby, 21, inside a Harvard University dorm, allegedly in a bid to rob him of pot and cash.

• The June 2009 murder of Tyriffe Lewis, 17, in Callahan State Park in Framingham, where prosecutors say he was lured by two men seeking revenge in a fight over marijuana.

In Boston, where one of the most shocking mass killings in recent city history was pot-related, police Commissioner Edward Davis blames drugs in general for surging violence — 65 murders compared to 44 last year at this time. Of Question 2, he said, “I can tell you I’m concerned. I wish we had gone another way in Massachusetts.”

They never actually link the facts of any those cases to the specifics of the new decrim rules, or give any evidence to back up their claims, except to say that decreasing penalties has decreased the deterrent to deal pot:

Leone said he fears decriminalization has created a booming “cottage industry” for dope dealers to target youths no longer fearing the stigma of arrest or how getting high could affect their already dicey driving. Leone’s combined distribution and trafficking caseload rose from 445 in 2008 to 464 in 2009. This year’s caseload stood at 422 as of last week, on track to match or exceed last year.

These numbers don’t prove a damn thing, and the article fails to include the evidence showing drug decriminalization leading to positive results in other countries.

If there is some truth to these claims, the point is completely missed by the Herald: the real solution is to legalize cannabis completely – removing the illegal market, removing the stigma attached to marijuana, removing the source of funding for gangs and allowing any disputes to be settled in a court of law.

In my opinion, it is somewhat contradictory to decriminalize use but continue to jail those who produce and distribute, because it causes confusion, leads to a paradoxical situation, and could even lead to increased enforcement. Re-criminalizing cannabis, however, is not the solution.

The article does include a comment from MPP’s Mike Meno arguing this point, but it is the 12th paragraph down the page. His quote is the only tidbit of reason in this propaganda piece disguised as a news article.

Read the comments section of the article for some laughs and good points, and then let authors Laurel J. Sweet and O’Ryan Johnson know what you think!

Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeremiah Vandermeer
Jeremiah Vandermeer

Jeremiah Vandermeer is Cannabis Culture Chief of Operations and Editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine & Pot TV.