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High Court in Massachusetts Rules Sharing of Marijuana Not a Crime

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Massachusetts’ highest state court ruled last week that so called “social sharing” of marijuana is not a crime. The decision dealt with four separate cases that fell within the purview of a voter approved initiative which decriminalized possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

In one case, a man was apprehended by police after they witnessed him sharing a marijuana cigarette with two of his friends, and also happened to notice a plastic bag containing marijuana sticking out of his pocket. Police then searched his backpack, which led to the discovery of an additional 10 small bags of marijuana, with the total weight of everything in the man’s possession amounting to less than an ounce.

The state had argued that the arrest was justified because the officer had reason to believe that the man was set to distribute the marijuana illegally. However, the court disagreed. It ruled in favor of the defendant, emphasizing the small amount in the man’s possession, and noting the fact that the man’s crime was only scrutinized in this situation because he was smoking with friends. Therefore, the law’s protection extends to group activity as well.

The other cases involve similar arguments, that individuals sharing marijuana were charged with intent to distribute based on their objective act of sharing the marijuana between them.

However, the court upheld the police’s actions in a case where officers found less than an ounce worth of plants growing in his closet, after he was served with a warrant. This finding dealt with the 2008 voter initiative’s reach regarding the cultivation of marijuana, which the court ruled it does not alter. Therefore, according to this ruling, the initiative protects the act of possessing an ounce or less, only.

Section 32L of the Controlled Substances Act states:

Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, possession of one ounce or less of marihuana shall only be a civil offense, subjecting an offender who is eighteen years of age or older to a civil penalty of one hundred dollars and forfeiture of the marihuana, but not to any other form of criminal or civil punishment or disqualification.

Thus, the law clearly states that no criminal penalties shall issue from a person being in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

However, as a class D drug under the current legal framework, any person who knowingly or intentionally distributes, dispenses, or cultivates, or even possesses with the intent to distribute, dispense, or cultivate marijuana is potentially subject to imprisonment for up to two years, and could also face a fine of up to $5,000. Thus, the distinction as affirmed by the court is particularly significant for those accused of marijuana offenses.

Attorney Patrick J. Murphy is an aggressive and dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney. He has many years of experience in successfully representing clients charged with drug crimes. If you have been charged with a Massachusetts drug crime, put your trust in a committed and experienced drug crimes lawyer. Contact Attorney Patrick J. Murphy today for a free and confidential consultation by calling 617-367-0450, or you can reach us through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Has Tainted Evidence Affected Your Massachusetts Criminal Case?, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published April 4, 2013
Major Crime Down for First Quarter in Boston, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published March 27, 2013