Some useful facts about Massachusetts marijuana laws

On behalf of Brian D. Roman, Attorney at Law on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

Massachusetts has recently reconsidered its laws regarding the regulation of marijuana. Politics aside, voters throughout the Commonwealth made it possible for a substantial change in how law enforcement handles cases in which citizens have been arrested for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Since January 2009, the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana has been decriminalized.

Some criminal defendants have difficulty understanding the concept of decriminalization. What you need to know is that if you are found in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and you are 18 years old or older, police will seize your marijuana and issue you a ticket for $100. If you are under the age of 18, police will seize your marijuana, issue you a ticket, attend a drug awareness program and complete some community service.

Still, other defendants are sometimes hazy about what grounds do police officers need to arrest you if they detect the odor of burning marijuana. This is perhaps due to a landmark case that involved an officer who arrested a suspect after detecting the odor of marijuana during a traffic stop. In that case, the court decided that the older of burning marijuana alone was not sufficient justification to order the defendant out of the vehicle.

Arguably, one of the worst misconceptions about the relaxed marijuana laws in Massachusetts is how decriminalization affects charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. It's important for you to know that the 2009 change in the law did not repeal the ban on selling marijuana. Put simply, decriminalization of marijuana was not intended as a free license to sell marijuana, even amounts less than one ounce.

If you find yourself facing possession with intent to distribute marijuana charges there are a few things you should know. Prosecutors often have limited resources to deal with drug crimes. Typically, prosecutors will pursue cases involving more dangerous drugs such as heroin and crack more vigorously than they will for low-level marijuana cases. A Massachusetts criminal defense attorney may be useful to you because of that. An attorney can negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf for a reduction of the charges against you in exchange for a guilty plea, although nothing is guaranteed. It's possible that a successful plea settlement may help you to avoid harsher penalties.

Source: Massachusetts Court System, "Massachusetts Law about Marijuana Possession," accessed April. 15, 2015