A person can be charged only $300, if they smell like pot but aren’t found to have any on them.
Local towns raising marijuana penalties
By Laura Krantz/Daily News staff
Milford Daily News
Posted Feb 24, 2012 @ 12:00 AM
Four years ago, the state decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, punishing lawbreakers with a $100 fine. Since then, some towns have decided to put more bite into the measure with their own fines, some as high as $400.
Just this week, Holliston Police Chief John Moore proposed adding a $300 fine for public use of marijuana.
Ashland, Bellingham and Marlborough are among the communities with higher fines for smoking in public.
“It’s to prevent people from standing outside on the street smoking weed,” said Marlborough Sgt. Richard Gaudette.
In Marlborough, the fine is $100 for possession and $300 for use in public.
Gaudette said most are charged $400, but a person can be charged only $300 if they smell like pot but aren’t found to have any on them.
You walk up to somebody on the sidewalk and before you get there they’ve already finished smoking it,” he said.
The attorney general’s office approves all new local bylaws. The state law sets the fine at $100.
“It doesn’t say that they can’t write their own bylaws and ordinances that would regulate its consumption,” said Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Sa fety.
In Ashland you can be charged $300, and the town clerk said four people in 2011 paid that fine.
Some officers said the fee is difficult to enforce because a loophole in the state law doesn’t punish people who don’t pay.
In Hopkinton, Sudbury, Milford, Hopedale and Mendon, the fine is $100.
Some departments said enforcement is at officers’ discretion.
Ashland Police spokesman Lt. Richard Briggs said people with a small amount of marijuana sometimes aren’t fined. The department wrote about a dozen citations last year, according to Briggs.
Sudbury Detective Wayne Shurling said the $100 fine is usually enforced. “The majority of the time people are given fines,” he said.
“If you’re constantly dealing with repeat offenders and you’ve already given them breaks, maybe it’s the next step you need to take,” said Hopedale Lt. Don Martin.
In Holliston, where the chief wants to increase the fine, the town clerk’s office said 29 people paid the fine last year.
The state law also includes additional penalties for minors, including parental notification.
“Sometimes good old-fashioned phone calls, especially if they’re minors, to mom or dad, will usually handle the situation,” Martin said.
He said the department issues between five and 10 citations a year.
Wayland Lt. Patrick Swanick said a person can still be arrested for having less than an ounce if it is packaged for distribution.
One supporter of the decriminalization law said it doesn’t make sense to let cities and towns add extra penalties to the marijuana fine. “Increasing punishments for small amounts of marijuana by adding a new civil fine for the use of small amounts of marijuana does indeed go against the basic intent of the new law,” said Chris Robarge, the central Massachusetts field coordinator for the ACLU of Massachusetts.