For police, there's nothing medical about marijuana
Posted in the Fitchburg Forum
#1 Mar 19, 2013
For police, there's nothing medical about marijuana
Among the unknowns that concern law enforcement agencies are the definition of a 60-day supply, how many plants are allowed to be grown, and dosage guidelines.(T&G File Photo/CHRISTINE PETERSON)
By Donna Boynton TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
90 comments | Add a comment
It almost treats any medical condition that a doctor deems necessary.
-- Joseph D. Early Jr., WORCESTER DISTRICT ATTORNEY
• Medical marijuana a reality in Maine
• Marijuana dispensary no big deal in Biddeford
• Westboro voters limit medical marijuana centers to adult entertainment zone
In Westboro, Police Chief Alan Gordon has seen the effects that marijuana has had on families — the distraught parents, the steppingstone to harsher illegal drugs.
In Worcester, Police Chief Gary Gemme has seen what marijuana has done to his city — the home invasions, the violent robberies.
From behind the badge, there is nothing medicinal about marijuana.
Law enforcement officials are waiting to see the draft regulations governing medicinal marijuana from the state Department of Public Health due later this month. In the meantime, they can only speculate what kind of impact a dispensary or a patient's medicinal stash may have on crime in their communities.
Massachusetts voters passed Question 3 — or “An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana”— in the November election. The law went into effect Jan. 1, allowing patients with qualifying conditions and a physician's approval to obtain and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Among the unknowns that law enforcement agencies are concerned about is the definition of a 60-day supply, how many plants are allowed to be grown, and dosage guidelines.
“Everything is unknown until we see the regulations,” said A. Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.“If a person is going to grow some to smoke, don't tell me you need 25 plants — that is 25 pounds of marijuana, and on average, one pound of marijuana is between 400 and 500 joints. As a caregiver you will be licensed to go grow plants, say six plants, for each patient you are caring for, and if you are a caregiver for 10 people, you are growing 60 plants. You are not a caregiver, you are a grower.”
On the surface, the law is rife with conflict. While the state law legalizes possession of marijuana for medicinal use, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 substance, defined as a substance that has a high potential for dependency and having no accepted medical use, under the federal Controlled Substances Act. While police have spent years educating youth through drug resistance programs and working to combat driving under the influence, they say this legal change works to erode those successes by having marijuana perceived as an accepted drug.
“I don't know how it will work in conflict with the federal law,” said Fitchburg Police Sgt. Glenn Fossa.“Federal law still trumps state law. I'm not an attorney, but I do know that a state law can never be more lenient than a federal law. For instance, if murder is outlawed in 49 states, one state cannot make it legal.”
#2 Mar 19, 2013
“This plant, which is smoked like tobacco, has up to three times as much tar as regular cigarettes. I am baffled that this is 'medicinal,'” Sgt. Fossa said.“We all know that you can't drive under the influence of a drug. After working for decades to crush drunken driving, aren't we going to open the door on that again?”
Marijuana is often called a “gateway drug” because it is the drug most teens try first and can lead to the abuse of narcotics.
“We have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, and now dispensaries may be giving out large amounts,” said Worcester Police Chief Gemme.“What is the message we are sending? Marijuana is perceived as a less dangerous drug.”
In fact, much violent crime is associated with marijuana in the city.
“A lot of our home invasions today are the result of selling illegal marijuana,” Chief Gemme said.“And whenever you have a home invasion, it usually involves a weapon and that increases the potential for assaults and more severe crimes.”
As recently as 2010, Worcester police noticed an increase in violent marijuana thefts. In that year, there were 28 home invasions in the city, and of those, 21 were drug-related.
Chief Gemme added that when it comes to illegal drugs, marijuana usually involves the most cash.
“When we do drug raids, the largest amount of money confiscated usually has to do with marijuana, and that is a concern for us,” Chief Gemme said.
Chief Gemme said people frequenting dispensaries will be easy to identify and target as being not only in possession of marijuana, but also in possession of a large amount of cash which is required to purchase the drugs. In addition, caregivers or patients who are allowed because of a hardship to grow their own marijuana will also be targets for crime.
Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said he had concerns with the law as it was written, in that it allows medicinal marijuana for loosely defined conditions.
“It almost treats any medical condition that a doctor deems necessary,” Mr. Early said.“If someone is suffering from cancer and this allows them to eat, or if someone is suffering from glaucoma and this allows them to keep their eyesight, I am not going to keep it from them. It's treating the headache, the anxiety and the sprained ankle that is the problem.”
In researching medical marijuana as it is has played out in other states, Mr. Early said, he has learned that Colorado has more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonalds.
“The No. 1 source for illegal marijuana was medical card holders who obtained it legally and distributed it illegally,” Mr. Early said.“It will happen here.”
The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association has been meeting with the state Department of Public Health as it crafts its regulations, and is confident that the agency has taken into consideration the concerns of the law enforcement officers across the state. With the law allowing patients and caregivers to grow marijuana at their homes, the potential for increased crime exists in every community, not just those with dispensaries, police say.
#3 Mar 19, 2013
“This is an all-cash business. They can't take credit cards, and it is still against federal law,” Chief Gordon said.“If banks take the money, they are laundering money. It opens businesses up to be more susceptible to property crime, more susceptible to people coming to rob them. That is a major component.”
Chief Gordon added,“It is confusing. It's like we are between a rock and a hard place. Technically, federal law trumps state law. But if we charge someone, we don't go to federal court, we go to state court, and, it's my read that a state court will throw it out. A judge will look at it and say it does not violate a state law.”
Meanwhile, the chiefs' association has asked for a statewide database that police officers can access to verify a person is authorized to be in possession of marijuana for medical use. Chief Sampson said it is no one's intent to deny a terminally ill person comfort, but law enforcement agencies still have to protect and serve.
“Any experienced law enforcement officer has seen victims of drug abuse and have dealt with their families. We've picked them up; we've taken them to the hospital. We've seen it firsthand,” Chief Sampson said.“There is no way anyone can convince me this is not a gateway drug. I've dealt with juveniles 10 and 12 years old. Many of us have seen it in our own children. We feel very strongly about this.”
Contact Donna Boynton at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @DonnaBoyntonTG
#4 Mar 19, 2013
I am going to begin to experimente with medical marijuana. I do not agree with legalizing the smoking of it but there is another process.
There is a process of extracting the THC of of the marijuana.If Marijuana is effective concerning joint pain, I will be able to tell the truth.
I understand that it is prescribed for a number of conditions. My questions would be why can we not see if manufactured pills and creams would be just as beneficial or even better than smoking it?
I ask because we have heroin and then there is opium that is used in the manufacturing of pills.
I agree with proper use and I stand by strict guidelines but I would never vote for legalization. If pot becomes legal then we all might as well smoke it and become burnouts because nothing productive will come out of it.
It has proven to make a big segment of our population as being burnt out and lazy.
#5 Mar 19, 2013
I agree that we must have serious adult conversations concerning marijuana. I agree that it is a drug. It alters thinking.
We have failed as a society to allow the widespread use of marijuana. There are other medications for anxiety that work.
We need to monitor its use and keep it exclusive to medical use. This can be done. Outlaw all smoking of it other than for terminally ill patients if it is discovered that this is a faster administration of the drug. We may be able to induce it in these patients through a needle like we do for diabetes.
I have heard some good things in regards to creams for joints. If this works I am using it. Recently I have been on Perscribed Vicadin, I asked for only ten. Most times that I am prescribed this drug I only end up using one or two of the pills.
We do need to have tighter controls such us these police members have stated. I agree 100% as it is a drug and from what I have seen it has more negative results with kids.
I would enjoy a wider conversation. Now at this time we should also include education for our police concerning methodone.
Methodone is not a synthetic Heroin! It is not but if you ask our local lawmen they have a total misconception of methodone and it is 100% false.
Will people abuse methodone, Vicadin,valium, oxycodin and marijuana? YES! This can never be acceptable.
We need to have the conversation and everyone needs to go in with an open mind. I agree with the police opinion concerning Marijuana. It is a drug!
And we cannot allow people to say "it is a plant and God allows it to grow". This is true as is the opiate and the cactus plant and many others. Some plants are poisonous.
Now, maybe someday down the rd there will be recreational use but even that has to have restrictions as alcohol has restrictions.
#6 Mar 19, 2013
Let me get this straight. You are a self proclaimed pill popping dope smoking half cripple. Why people aren't running to the polls to elect you I have no idea. Keep up the good fight buddy.
#7 Mar 20, 2013
We should restrict people from using golf clubs when their under the influence of marijuana.
#8 Mar 20, 2013
I've never tried it, but I don't think you smoke packs of marijuana. Isn't it just a few puffs? I doubt there is a health risk in that. I would think the benefits outweigh the risks, if you are in chronic pain. I think the smoking and driving issue is valid, though. If you get a medical marijuana prescription you should have it noted on your license.
#9 Mar 20, 2013
You don't have to smoke it, though that is the fastest way to relief. You can eat it also.
Problem with driving is that there is no test to indicate if you are "high", only that you have used it in the last month or so. It would be difficult to prove anyone was driving under the influence of marijuana...
#10 Mar 20, 2013
...if you showed the driver a poster under a blacklight and their response was "that's cool, man" you'd have them.
#11 Mar 20, 2013
Lynch doesn't have to worry about that, remember? According to him, the People's Republic of China has revoked his license.
#12 Mar 20, 2013
Yes, you are a commie!
#13 Mar 21, 2013
But is the Chinese government part of the old boy network?
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