If an area legislator has his way, those caught with small amounts of marijuana in a car will face fines 10 times greater than Massachusetts voters backed last November.
State Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, wants to make it harder on pot smokers through legislation he filed in January. His bill would mandate a fine of no less than $1,000 for any amount of marijuana in the passenger area of a motor vehicle as well as a 90-day suspension of a driver's license.
The proposed legislation follows last November's statewide referendum in which 65 percent of state voters approved Question 2, which decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Under the ballot question, those caught with a small quantity of pot would be given a civil summons and fined $100.
Supporters said the decriminalization law would save taxpayers nearly $30 million a year in law enforcement costs.
Brown's proposal would charge offenders twice as much as before the drug was decriminalized.
Brown refused to comment specifically on the bill and referred all questions to Wellesley Police Chief Terrence M. Cunningham.
"What the senator has done is file a bill that would put marijuana on the same level (as alcohol) because there are a few inconsistencies in the law," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said that it does not make sense that there exists a flat fine of $100 for all marijuana findings under one ounce, yet there is a greater fine for those found with alcohol in their vehicles. A teenager under the age of 18 found with marijuana in the passenger seat incurs a fine of $100 whereas the same teenager would be arrested and fined for having an open alcohol bottle in the same spot.
"It would still be $100 everywhere else, this is just in the passenger area of the car," Cunningham said. "If you have it in the trunk it would still be a $100 fine."
State Rep. John Fernandes, D-Milford, who voted against the decriminalization of marijuana, said he plans to look further into Brown's legislation.
"I am reluctant to take any action to modify the law," Fernandes said. "I am open to considering what he has proposed, but my inclination is to let the thing play itself for a bit."
Fernandes said that in recent weeks, several towns have taken steps to pass local bylaws that would target people who smoke marijuana in public areas where young children gather.
Milford and Medway have passed the bylaw change for added penalties for smoking pot in public and Bellingham residents will vote on it at a special Town Meeting on May 27.
Brown's legislation has mobilized proponents of decriminalization to take action against the bill.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, an advocacy group whose mission is "to build a consensus for a more moral and rational public policy regarding all uses of the cannabis plant," has announced a protest at a Brown fundraising event tomorrow evening from 6 to 8 p.m. outside the Mistral restaurant in Boston's South End.
Sen. Brown Would Change Marijuana Law