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Officials would label possession a nuisance

By Jack Encarnacao
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Sep 13, 2008 @ 02:00 AM

Weymouth officials are mulling a move that they say could help crack down on drug use: making possession of drugs a violation of the state's public nuisance law.
The proposal could let authorities toss out narcotics once they're found, rather than seizing them as evidence to build a criminal case. But, despite key support locally, the idea is being viewed skeptically by the state Department of Public Health.
Richard Marino, Weymouth's public health director, said the regulation would categorize drugs as something that, like contaminated water or food, creates sickness and is injurious to public health. Mayor Sue Kay supports the idea.
"I'm not suggesting a decriminalization ... I am suggesting a separation of the public health interest from what has typically been a criminal-enforcement only activity," Marino wrote in a request for legal opinion to the state department of public health. "When viewed as a public health nuisance, the destruction of illicit street drugs (is) tantamount to the destruction of toxic or infectious material that has no useful value to society."
Marino also argues that disposing of drugs as a health nuisance would be just as effective in getting drugs out of the town as prosecuting the users.
Weymouth's board of health is considering the regulation and weighing when to hold a public hearing on it.
Lawyers in the state department of public health are reviewing Marino's reasoning, but do not appear entirely receptive - especially about the prospect of local health inspectors discarding drugs without law enforcement authorities seeing them.
"While public health departments play a vital role in prevention, education and treatment, we believe the role of confiscation and disposition of illegal drugs is an activity that is best left to law enforcement," read a statement released by the department.
Weymouth Police Capt. Brian Callahan, who is acting chief, said he's discussed the idea with Marino and doesn't philosophically oppose it. But he said its implications need to be closely studied.
"We have to make sure we're on good ground when we do that," Callahan said. "Anything that enhances drug enforcement is good. If the proposal is helpful in any way, I'm all for it."
Kay, who stressed curbing drug use as a campaign issue, called the idea, which she has touted to the health board, "a real exciting thing."
"If we can diminish it or at least discourage drug deals from coming to our town, that's worth it," she said.
Kay said she sees the regulation as something that can help police in combating drugs. She said she will be pitching the idea to officials in other towns.
Marino said he doesn't see why drugs don't fit into the same category as many of the other sickness-causing substances that the health department is charged with keeping away from its residents.
"How many people died last year because of too much sodium in their drinking water? Probably not a lot," he said. "But drugs, you've found quite a few. If that's not a sickness, I don't know what is."

Newsflash to Weymouth; officers can already do that. It's called discretion, and is perfectly valid as long as the drugs are logged in for destruction. If we arrested or charged every kid we found with a joint or nickel bag of weed, the system would grind to a halt.

With the town near bankrupcy, it's good to know the elected officials are wasting time on this foolishness.

· Premium Member
5,858 Posts
Their Board of Health must have nothing to do to come up with this one. Perhaps a trimming of staff there would set their minds right on stuff they normally deal with.
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