Southborough voters impose fines for marijuana consumption

If you smoke pot in a public area in Southborough, it’s going to cost you. Town Meeting on Tuesday night voted to impose a $300 fine for public use of marijuana. That’s on top of the $100 fine for possession already on the books.

Last November voters in Southborough and statewide voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Southborough’s new bylaw deals with consumption of marijuana, and the way the bylaw is worded, enforcement could be either criminal or noncriminal.

The bylaw says the town can enforce the law “through any lawful means in law or in equity including, but not limited to enforcement by criminal indictment.”

That wording concerned the Advisory Committee so they made a motion to amend the bylaw. In their amendment they suggested wording to make it clear that marijuana consumption would be a noncriminal offense.

Interim Chief Jane Moran said she had no intention of criminally enforcing the bylaw. “I would not arrest an offender for possession or consumption,” she said. Nevertheless, Moran said she could not support the Advisory Committee’s change to the language because it included detailed requirements about how a citation would be issued, requirements her department would not be able to comply with.

Voters ultimately shot down the Advisory Committee’s amendment and without further discussion approved the original wording.

So I have to admit I’m confused. Unless I’ve got it wrong, we have a bylaw that allows for the criminal enforcement of marijuana consumption, but a pledge from the chief saying she’ll only pursue noncriminal enforcement.

I believe Moran when she says she won’t arrest people for marijuana consumption, but Moran won’t be our chief forever. What happens down the road if and when we get a new chief? Did Southborough voters intentionally leave the door open for criminal enforcement of marijuana use? Or am I reading too much into this?

Anyone else who was there (or not there) have an opinion? Those of you who are curious can read the entire bylaw here (.pdf).

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