Massachusetts bill would boost punishment for driving with pot

| 10/8/2009

A Massachusetts state lawmaker wants to get tough with people nabbed with marijuana on the state’s roadways.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, wants to boost the fine for driving with small amounts of pot tenfold – similar to the penalty for driving with an open container of alcohol.

The bill would increase the fine for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana in a vehicle from $100 to at least $1,000. Violators, even licensed passengers, would also lose their driving privileges for 90 days.

The effort follows last November’s statewide referendum in which voters overwhelmingly approved decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of pot. The ballot question specified that the penalty for getting caught with a small quantity of marijuana is a $100 fine.

Supporters of the bill say it would close loopholes in current motor vehicle laws. They say that driving while impaired is dangerous no matter what the substance. And the more severe the penalty is the greater the deterrent.

Police chiefs say the referendum approved by voters makes it difficult for law enforcement to preserve public safety. It could also discourage police from enforcing marijuana laws.

Brown’s bill – S1586 – is in the Joint Committee on Judiciary.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to