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Practical Effects Relating To The Decriminalization Of Possession Of Marijuana Under One Ounce On Massachusetts Criminal Cases

As most in the legal community know, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana has been decriminalized in Massachusetts. That does not mean that it is not “against the law” to possess and ounce or less of marijuana, it simply means that a fine is the potential penalty, similar to a speeding ticket or another traffic violation. If the individual is an adult a $100.00 fine is imposed and the marijuana is confiscated. In the event that a person under eighteen is found to be in the possession of the substance, he or she must attend a drug awareness program. However, the legislature has not decriminalized possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, distribution of marijuana or trafficking marijuana. Furthermore, operating under the influence of marijuana is a criminal offense.

In Commonwealth v. Cruz, 459 Mass. 459 (2011) , the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court discussed the effects that the decriminalization of a possession of marijuana can have on traffic stops by police officers and subsequent searches of the car, driver and passengers. In Cruz, the Court upheld the lower trial court’s suppression of evidence holding that a civil citation should have issued for the car being parked next to a hydrant however, reasonable suspicion of criminal activity was necessary to further detain the driver and probable cause is necessary to support an exit order and search of the car. Thus, from a defense point of view, the decriminalization has been a step in further securing an individual’s right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures.

As briefly discussed above, the law does not exempt an individual from all crimes that relate to marijuana. A person can still be charged with illegal possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, distribution of marijuana and trafficking of marijuana, even if the amount is under an ounce if other factors are present. Furthermore, if the intent to distribute or distribution occurs in a school zone a defendant can face a mandatory sentence of two years in jail. Items that are often associated with the distribution of marijuana are scales, baggies, razor blades, cutting agents and a large amount of cash.

A practical approach to defending a client charged with any drug offense include examining the facts to determine whether a motion to suppress the stop, motion to suppress the evidence and motion to suppress the search should be filed. Furthermore, a motion to dismiss is also often appropriate in circumstance in which there is clearly not enough to infer that the defendant actually distributed or intended to distribute the substance.


Our Attorney has specialized in criminal law for over twenty years. She has successfully litigated motions to suppress and dismiss cases based on the Cruz case and other grounds. Our Attorney routinely appears in the Lawrence District Court, Haverhill District Court and Lowell District Court defending the rights of her clients. If you want experience and skill on your side contact Our Attorney on line or and she will contact you immediately.