Massachusetts prosecutors are among the leading opponents of a proposition on the Nov. 4 state ballot that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, the Boston Globe reports. They argue that the initiative would send the wrong message and lead to a host of social problems. Proponents argue, that if the measure passed, possession of small amounts would remain illegal but would no longer tarnish someone’s future.
Under state law, those convicted of possessing even a small amount of marijuana face up to six months in jail, a fine of $500, and a lifelong record that may be available to potential employers, housing agencies, and student loan providers. In 2006, 6,902 people were arrested in the state for marijuana possession – more than 38 percent of all the drug arrests that year. All arrests for marijuana possession are archived by the state’s Criminal History Systems Board even when there isn’t a conviction. The board must disclose such information to any employer seeking to hire a teacher, police officer, day-care center employee, school bus driver, or nursing home worker, as well as prosecutors. The proposed change would make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana punishable by a fine of $100, the equivalent of a speeding ticket. Nothing would be reported to the criminal history board.