++ Springfield man's marijuana violation may be first under new law - SouthernWolf.net

Springfield man's marijuana violation may be first under new law

Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2009 @ 13:07:06 EST in Drugs
by Southern

John M. Guilfoil

A western Massachusetts man became Springfield's – and possibly the state's – first offender under the new marijuana decriminalization law that went into effect Friday. But the $100 fine he faces for pot possession is the least of his legal problems.

Police said 29-year-old Jose Burgos of Holyoke was arrested Friday afternoon by the city's Vice Control Unit with 119 crack cocaine rocks and 45 bags of heroin in his car. When he was brought to the police station for booking, officers allegedly found 0.2 grams of marijuana in his right front pants pocket.

Officers treated it like any other arrest in Springfield, police said.

"He was given ... basically a city ordinance violation like a parking ticket," said Lieutenant Robert P. Moynihan. "He can either appeal to a clerk magistrate within 21 days or pay a fine of $100."

For possessing the other drugs, however, Burgos could be sentenced to years in prison. Burgos was charged with trafficking cocaine and possession of a Class A substance with intent to distribute. He is being held on $50,000 bail and will be arraigned Monday in Springfield District Court.

Under the marijuana decriminalization law, approved by voters in a November referendum, those who are caught with an ounce or less of marijuana would get a ticket for a civil violation, rather than be criminally charged. Juvenile violators would have to pay the $100 fine and attend a drug abuse counseling course, or have the fine increased to $1,000.

Many police departments across the state told the Globe Friday that that they would ignore the law, not even bothering to ticket people who were smoking marijuana. One chief said the law is so poorly written it cannot be enforced.


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