Mew marijuana law – or lack thereof – tests local PD

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SHIRLEY — The new marijuana law passed by citizen’s petition in the last general election and subsequently enacted by the Legislature went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Now, the town may test it for the first time, police Chief Paul Thibodeau said.

In the first incident in which the new law may apply, summonses have been issued to three 18-year-old town residents police caught with a small cache of marijuana in a parked vehicle just before midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 30.

The vehicle was spotted on a long, dirt drive that meanders through the woods off Great Road. The property belongs to Herfco Company.

The three will be charged with marijuana possession in court, but because the amount of the substance police confiscated was very small — probably under the 1-ounce limit set by the new law — Thibodeau said the drugs won’t be measured or tested and he acknowledged it’s uncertain how the judge will view the charges in light of the new law.

He’s not the only area police chief who has expressed some frustration with the state’s lack of direction regarding the new law, which decriminalizes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Proponents are hailing it as a law whose time has come but police across the state say it’s full of procedural holes and that officers may have trouble with it.

For one thing, it calls for issuing citations, similar to speeding tickets, but there is no form available, Thibodeau said. The Department of Public Safety is responsible for providing such a form, he said, but so far has been silent on the issue.

As for enforcing the new statute, Thibodeau has no qualms about it. “It’s the law ” and police must act accordingly, he said.

Still, he sees it as another of the state’s oft-lamented “unfunded mandates.”

Printing new citations and records-keeping associated with the new law costs money, he noted, and area towns don’t have any to spare.