In Massachusetts, where two voters support marijuana reform for every single voter who does not, you could almost expect that change might actually come from elected officials at the State House. But you would be wrong. In the Bay State, the ballot initiative process and the court system are where activists have had the most luck in changing laws and law enforcement practices.
Take the case of Cristina Barbuto, a medical marijuana patient who lost her marketing job over a failed drug test for cannabis. Barbuto and her attorneys have now filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination over her unjust firing. Though the 2012 Medical Marijuana Initiative would seem to protect Barbuto from such a fate, it may not be enough.
Nichole Snow, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, suspected that employment troubles would become an issue. “It was only a matter of time until registered patients were being let go from their work,” she says. “That is why we drafted H.2065 to include employment protections.”
H.2065, currently filed at the State House, would provide additional work and family protections for patients. The proposal currently has 16 co-sponsors with strong community and voter support, yet it’s still a longshot that it will pass. Why? Because of the law enforcement/Just Say No lobby. Politicians know that cannabis is popular with voters, but campaign contributions from police and phoney “educators” keep most pols on the side of reefer madness.
It’s not all bad news—not since the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled recently that because of the state’s medical marijuana law, police need to introduce evidence that marijuana isn’t registered or being cultivated for medicinal uses before obtaining a search warrant. In other words, authorities are no longer able to say that medical pot doesn’t exist in the commonwealth. If you’ve scanned local news headlines of late, you may have noticed that several growers have been arrested. Now, as a result of the aforementioned ruling, many of those cases may be dismissed. Defense attorney John Seed, who has successfully defended medical marijuana patients in Mass, says, “Whether or not the person growing has a license, the onus is on the police to first establish that they do not in order to proceed with probable cause on a search warrant. However, even if they do have a recommendation, the case law cites other instances where a search is still lawful, such as undercover buys [or] evidence of growing more than [a] 60 day supply.”
There will likely be many examples to come, but for now a narcotics task force in the Pioneer Valley in Western Mass (and their buddies at the DEA) have already been made aware of these developments. After a recent search warrant of theirs was found to hold no water, it was thrown out, the case dismissed. Adds Seed, the attorney, about the recent changes, they “definitely give more ammo to defend cultivation cases.” Not quite as much ammo as the cops have, of course, but it’s a good start nevertheless.