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Possession and Distribution of Marijuana

Possession and Distribution of Marijuana

In January 2009 the Massachusetts legislature decriminalize possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. Possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is a civil infraction. This is not to say that one cannot be charged with distribution of less than an ounce of marijuana. Distribution remains a crime in Massachusetts.

In April 2013 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts rendered four important decisions on the impact of the decriminalization of marijuana. In Commonwealth v. Jackson and Commonwealth v. Pacheco, the court concluded that social sharing of marijuana is not distribution. The Jackson decision involved marijuana and part of the court's reasoning relied on the fact that less than 1 ounce marijuana has been decriminalized. The opinion went on to state that social sharing of other drugs besides marijuana does not constitute criminal distribution. The court relied an expanded on a principle previously stated in Commonwealth v. Johnson, 413 Mass. 598 (1992) that is: "a defendant who gives drugs to others distributes those drugs whenever the defendant serves as a link in the chain between supplier and consumer". "Social sharing of marijuana is akin to simple possession, and does not constitute the facilitation of a drug transfer from seller to buyer that remains the hallmark of drug distribution". In other words Johnson , Id. stood for the proposition that if two people were smoking a marijuana cigarette and sharing it between themselves, it was not distribution.

The Supreme Judicial Court decisions also impacted the police right to search based on the odor or presence of less than 1 ounce marijuana. In Commonwealth v. Daniel, Commonwealth v. Pacheco and Commonwealth v. Jackson the court concluded that the discovery of a noncriminal quantity of marijuana does not allow the police to further search a car or a backpack for more marijuana, absent articulable facts supporting a belief that there was a criminal amount of marijuana in the location searched.

In Commonwealth v. Daniel the court even imposed limits on a police officer's right to order a defendant out of the vehicle based on the smell of marijuana. The court held that the mere odor of burnt marijuana coming from a car in the recovery of a noncriminal amount of marijuana from the driver, absent any evidence of impairment, did not provide reasonable suspicion that the driver was operating under the influence of marijuana.

If you are charged with a marijuana related drug offense in Massachusetts, whether it is distribution, trafficking or possession, it is important to retain an experience criminal attorney who is familiar with the latest decisions rendered by the courts in Massachusetts.

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