Keegan Law for Marijuana Charges in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, it is okay to consume marijuana recreationally or for medicinal benefits (thanks to the recent passage of a medical marijuana law). Nonetheless, being in possession of a certain amount of marijuana or passing off marijuana to friends for a price can get you in trouble. In recent news stories, individuals have been arrested after possessing or distributing marijuana, telling police upon arrest, “But I thought it was legal.”

In one sad story, a young man received two years in prison after sharing a small amount of marijuana with a friend. The two were at a McDonalds on a Friday night – but they were less than 1,000 feet from a school. In the words of the young man’s mother, “Because he was the one who gave the other kid the bag, he was sentenced with distribution in a school zone and received the minimum of 2 years. He had less than 6 grams and it was a first offense. He had never been arrested before and I was shocked that he was sent to prison for two years.”

As Massachusetts’s laws have changed somewhat recently, it is important that residents of our state stay “in the know” about these laws and are fully aware of what is legal and what is not. Thanks to a semi-recent decriminalization law, individuals over the age of 18 caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will simply get a ticket. They can appeal this ticket or pay a $100 fine. Juvenile violators have to pay a fine and attend a drug abuse counseling course in addition or their fine is increased to $1,000. It is also only a civil offense if a person is caught in public with an ounce or less of marijuana.

So what if you were in possession of more marijuana?

  • More than one ounce: This is a misdemeanor offense, punishable with a fine of $500 and probation (or Department of Youth Services). The charges can be stricken from your record on completion of probation.
  • More than one ounce (subsequent offense): This is also a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $500 fine. While there is a possibility for probation, your charges will nonetheless remain on your record.

Under the Marijuana Tax Stamp Law, in order to possess marijuana, you have to have a stamp. You only get a stamp once you are in possession of marijuana, however, which makes you a violator of the law. While this act is illegal, it remains in the books.

Cultivating/Distributing Marijuana

If you cultivated or sold marijuana, you will face trafficking charges if you cultivated or sold more than 50 pounds of marijuana. If you cultivated or sold less than 50 pounds of marijuana, the penalties will depend on whether or not this is a first or subsequent offense. Ch. 94c §1, et seq. discusses the following penalties:

  • Cultivating/selling marijuana, first offense: this is a misdemeanor if it involved less than 50 pounds, you could face a fine between $500 and $5,000 and/or a prison sentence up to two years
  • Cultivating/selling marijuana, second or subsequent offense: for a second offense, an individual could be forced to pay $1,000 to $10,000 and will face a prison sentence of one to two and a half years
  • Distributing or cultivating any amount within 1,000 feet of a school is a felony, punishable by an additional two year minimum sentence and a $1,000 to $10,000 fine

Money does not actually have to be exchanged for someone to be charged with “possession with intent to distribute.” Intent to distribute is based on the amount, packaging and other factors. Even when school is not in session, an individual aged 17 or older will automatically be sentenced to jail if he is convicted of possession with the intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a school.

What about drug paraphernalia?

  • If you were in possession of drug paraphernalia–an item used to grow, harvest, process, sell, store, or use marijuana–this is no longer a crime, but it remains subject to seizure and forfeiture
  • Manufacturing or selling paraphernalia is a felony, punishable by 1-2 years in jail and a $500 to $5,000 fine
  • Selling paraphernalia to a minor is a felony, punishable by 3-5 years in prison and a $1,000 to $5,000 fine

Trafficking Marijuana

  • Trafficking between 50 and a 100 pounds: is a felony, you could be forced to pay a fine between $500 and $10,000, you would also have a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year, up to 15 years
  • Trafficking between 100 and 2,000 pounds: is a felony, you could be forced to pay a fine between $2,500 and $25,000 and would have a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years, up to 15 years
  • Trafficking between 10,000 pounds or more: is a felony, penalties include a fine between $20,000 and $200,000 and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years, up to 15 years

Other Penalties

Besides being forced to pay high fines and spend time in jail, marijuana offenders can also be subject to the following penalties:

  • Having their licenses suspended
  • Losing their right to possess and carry a firearm
  • Being denied student loans

Many factors play into an individual’s sentence including involvement in the offense, location, age, presence of minors, use of communications devices and conduct for which a person has been acquitted.

Defenses that Can Be Used on Your Behalf

If you have been charged with possessing marijuana, there are several defenses that could be used to exonerate you:

  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • The drugs belonged to someone else
  • The substance wasn’t actually a drug
  • Missing drugs- the prosecution doesn’t actually have in their possession the drugs you were accused of possessing
  • You were framed
  • Entrapment- officers induced you into committing a crime

Regardless of what marijuana charge you face, you should secure criminal defense on your side today. Keegan Law is a criminal defense firm with over 40 years of combined experience beneath its belt. Since the firm employs attorneys that are former police officers, they know the legal system inside and out and also know what arguments the other side will attempt to use to convict you. When you need an aggressive advocate in your corner, the attorneys at Keegan Law are here to help. Give the firm a call today!