How will a Massachusetts police officer know whether someone is carrying more than an ounce of marijuana? Will those caught smoking it present sufficient probable cause for an officer to search them or their car? How will officers cite people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and will there be an appeals process? The Boston Globe says that after state voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, law enforcement officials wondered how they would implement the new law and how it would change their work.
“This is certainly going to make the work of many police officers a lot more complicated,” said Wayne Sampson of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. The passage of Question 2 will make getting caught with under an ounce of pot punishable by a civil fine of $100. The offense will no longer be reported to the state’s criminal history board. The law will require those younger than 18 to complete a drug awareness program and community service, and for those who don’t, the fine will increase to as much as $1,000. Police and prosecutors – most of whom opposed the proposition because, they contended, it would send the wrong message and boost crime – said they will have to reexamine a range of standard operating procedures. Chief Brian Kyes of the Chelsea Police Department worries about what will constitute probable cause for searching someone found with marijuana. “If it’s a civil infraction, not a crime, can police officers search for more evidence?” Kyes asked. “Now that might constitute a bad search, and that definitely will require significant changes.”