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High-Fives and Dope Slaps: Wait, so under an ounce of pot isn't necessarily legal?

Posted by Alex Pearlman  February 15, 2012 06:11 PM

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pot leaf.jpgBy Jeff Fish

Mitt Romney must have a splitting headache from all the dope slaps he’s received, but he’s at it again with his stance on contraception. Meanwhile, my two favorite Senate candidates are inspiring civility in Montana.

Also, Whitey Bulger’s trial has been set, the T's fare hike proposals aren’t going over too well, and carrying weed on you isn’t as decriminalized as you might think.

Dope Slap: Mitt Romney’s current view on contraception. Yes, I do mean his current view because the former governor’s positions on a majority of issues have changed over the years, and contraception is no exception. Romney blasted Obama for his proposed policy that would require religiously affiliated institutions like hospitals, schools, and charities -- but not churches -- to include contraception in their health insurance plans. But like every other issue, Romney has taken both sides on matters like contraception and abortion.

The religious right, and Romney for the time being, is calling this policy an assault on religion -- more meaningless buzz talk to get people riled up. The government is not forcing this rule on religious establishments (i.e. churches), only religiously affiliated institutions, which hire many people who practice outside of the affiliated religion. This policy is helping those people, who should not be beholden to the religious beliefs of the organization that employs them.

High-Five: James "Whitey" Bulger's trial date set, much to the chagrin of his lawyers. A federal magistrate judge has set Bulger's trial to begin on Nov. 5. Defense attorney J.W. Carney objected to the ruling saying, “We couldn’t possibly be ready,” while a federal prosecutor argued that Bulger is trying to avoid a trial.

I have to side with the prosecutor on this one. Last I heard, we have a right to a speedy trial, not a slow one. If Bulger has nothing to hide, why does his defense team need so much more time to prepare? The sooner Bulger is brought to justice, the better.

Dope Slap: Proposed T fare hikes. I’m sympathetic to the fact that the MBTA has difficult decisions to make if it wants to erase its debt, and it's understandable that we riders will have to sacrifice a bit to help, but that doesn’t make the proposed fare hikes and service cuts any easier for the thousands of people whom the measures will negatively affect. One man, 63-year-old John Robinson of Somerville, told The Boston Globe that cutting the commuter rail on weekends means he won’t be able to visit his father on Saturdays and Sundays.

Fortunately, people are taking note: Over 200 people gathered outside the Boston Public Library’s main branch in protest on Monday. There’s definitely no easy answer, but limiting access to and from Boston so much can’t be good for the city or its residents.

High-Five: Brown-Warren pledge inspires in Montana. I've already applauded attempts by Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren to limit the influence of the third-party Super PACs that dominate the airwaves during election season because of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowing them to spend unlimited money. Now it looks like politicians out west are taking up the same cause. In the U.S. Senate race in Montana, Sen. John Tester, a Democrat, reached out to his Republican rival, Rep. Denny Rehberg, to come to a similar agreement. Rehberg has yet to sign the proposal, but he sent it back to Tester with revisions, much like what Warren did to Brown. The two Massachusetts candidates did eventually settle on a agreement, which has worked so far, for the most part.

Let’s face it: There are still largely uncharted waters when it comes to the Internet, so it’s impossible to eliminate every unfair campaign attack. But it’s great to see Brown and Warren make a solid attempt in Massachusetts, and it’s encouraging to see two candidates from another state adopt the cause. This story is just another example of how Massachusetts sets precedents in politics and policy.

Dope Slap: Under an ounce? You can still get arrested. Massachusetts voters decriminalized marijuana in a 2008 referendum, meaning that if you’re caught in possession of under one ounce of the stuff, you won’t be arrested (you will, however, get a $100 fine). But now, the state's Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has ruled that simple possession and intent to distribute are two separate things, saying that the referendum has nothing to do with the latter.

All you weed dealers out there, take note: You can still get arrested for selling pot, even if it's under an ounce. I suppose the SJC was technically right in this ruling, but it seems that the law was unclear. I was under the impression that you couldn’t be arrested for having under an ounce no matter what, and that having over an ounce was seen as intent to distribute. Very confusing. I’m not giving this dope slap to the SJC per se, but rather to the fact that marijuana, a perfectly harmless recreational drug -- and a miracle drug to those suffering from any number of ailments -- is still illegal. We need full-blown legalization not only in the state, but in the country. But that’s another column for another day.

'High-Fives and Dope Slaps' is TNGG Boston's weekly politics column, written by Jeff Fish.

Photo by Vectorportal (Flickr)

About Jeff -- I'm a senior at Suffolk University, majoring in journalism and political science. I'm the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, The Suffolk Journal, and I did a six-month co-op at The Boston Globe. I love politics, reading, movies, TV, and anything pop culture. My mind is a font of useless knowledge.

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