By Chief Mark J. Corr, Lexington Police Department  |  As a new officer fresh out of the police academy in 1983, one of the more difficult chores was serving arrest warrants for red light and speeding violations. I would go knock on doors and take residents into custody for the non payment of a $20 fine. Frankly, I found these assignments embarrassing.

Today, a traffic violation is a civil violation and the non payment of a ticket will adversely impact your driver’s license or registration. Decriminalization of traffic laws did not give motorists the privilege to violate traffic regulations and endanger public safety. Speeding and driving through red lights is still unlawful. Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana was decriminalized in Massachusetts in 2008. I often overhear people talking about “legally” possessing marijuana.

In one police report, a parent told officers that her16-year old son told her it was legal to possess marijuana in Massachusetts. It is troubling to me how many youths and adults do not understand the meaning of decriminalization.

The possession and use of marijuana is unlawful. Smoking marijuana is a health hazard. Most users have no idea where or how their marijuana was grown and contamination of product is common; some dealers add other drugs to their product. Tobacco companies were not the only ones who understood that a more potent smoke could promote an addiction.

A 2007 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that drug use (as reported by the motorists) was as high as 16%; see the NHTSA web-site for more information. Surveys from around the nation tend to show that marijuana continues to be the gateway drug that many youths take before going on to use more serious drugs.

School Resource Officer Matthew Murphy is noticing a trend whereby students, new from the middle schools, seem more inclined to try marijuana than their older siblings. They cite the change in the law for their inclination to try marijuana. In our region, one ounce of marijuana can cost over $400 for 42 to 56 joints (using .75 to .50 ounce per joint).

Whereas distributing marijuana is still a criminal offense; the decriminalization of possession has made it more difficult to prevent a very lucrative business of selling smaller amounts of marijuana. Dealers are meticulously aware of the amount they should possess to avoid criminal possession. I could discuss at length the failure of the current drug laws, or cite many more examples of the hazards of marijuana use.

With the limited exception of a few who benefit from medical marijuana, I will simply say that the possession of marijuana is unlawful and smoking is unhealthy.

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