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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decides Cases Involving Marijuana Law

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its opinion in four cases today all implicating the Massachusetts Marijuana Law. Three of these cases are discussed here. All three of these decisions found in favor of the defendants. The decisions effectively explain and perpetuate the spirit of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32L making possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil offense.

In Commonwealth v. Pacheco, a state trooper was on patrol at night in a park in Lynn, Massachusetts. A sign in the park indicated that the park closed at dusk. The officer saw a car parked in a handicapped spot. When he approached he detected an odor of burnt Marijuana coming from the car. Several occupants of car admitted to smoking Marijuana and one stated that a small amount was left. Everyone in the car was ordered out. They were searched for weapons. A bag of Marijuana containing less than one ounce was found on the floor mat in the rear of the vehicle. The officer then searched the trunk of the car. He found a backpack which he opened. Inside he found a gun. The defendant admitted that the gun was his.

The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Search and Seizure was unlawful. In doing so it cited two other cases also decided today. In one case, Commonwealth v. Daniel, the Court stated that smelling freshly burnt marijuana coupled with Possession of less than one ounce of the drug by itself does not provide probable cause to believe that an amount of marijuana consistent with criminal activity is in the car. Daniel is an expansion of the Court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Cruz holding that the smell of burnt marijuana alone does not give rise to probable cause to search a car. Additionally, the Court ruled today in Commonwealth v. Jackson that “social sharing of marijuana” does not satisfy the element of Distribution of Marijuana.

As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer I imagine that these cases will result in the dismissal of many pending Massachusetts Drug Cases. Since G.L. 94C Section 32L was passed many lawyers warned their clients that sharing a joint with a friend might be considered a crime and that being caught engaging in that conduct would, at a minimum result in an arrest. The open and public use of marijuana has become significantly noticeable since the passage of this act. It is not uncommon to smell burnt marijuana or to see people smoking marijuana in Boston during work hours.


The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, PC has been defending drugs cases in Massachusetts for over twenty-five years. We have been fighting against mandatory sentences and unreasonable laws for over two decades. There is a defense to every case. If you are in trouble you need to hire a lawyer. Call our office at 617-263-6800 or simply send us an email. We know that we can help you defend against your pending criminal charges.