Massachusetts voters made history by approving a sweeping marijuana decriminalization law on Election Day, but campaign debates are reigniting as communities start to enforce the new rule, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Massachusetts was the 13th state to decriminalize marijuana possession, but it was the first since the 1970s to eliminate criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of the drug, even for repeat offenders. One expert said the state’s move “revitalizes a reform movement” and has prompted other New England states to consider doing the same.
But many law enforcement officials say the law is nearly unenforceable. These complaints are accelerating efforts in towns and cities across the state to enact ordinances governing “public consumption,” which the law’s defenders fear might edge toward recriminalization. One major concern of some police officials: While marijuana remains an illegal substance, full decriminalization, as is the case in Massachusetts, removes officers’ powers of arrest, which means police can’t compel offenders to identify themselves. The new law specifically allows communities to draft their own public consumption ordinances, and dozens are considering doing so. The state attorney general’s office prepared a model bylaw that would levy an additional $300 fine, the state maximum, on people caught using pot in public.