In April, 2013 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) decided four cases that either changed and/or clarified the laws regarding marijuana in Massachusetts. The ruling by the state’s highest court were a much needed step to better define the laws after voters decriminalized              the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in 2008.

In Commonwealth v. Palmer, 464 Mass. 773 (2013), the SJC held that cultivation of even less than one ounce of marijuana was still a criminal offense.  However, three justices did write in a concurring opinion that cultivation for personal use should no longer be considered a crime.  We will have to wait and see what comes of this in the future as the decriminalization of the drug in Massachusetts becomes more prevalent with society.

The SJC in Commonwealth v. Pacheco, SJC–11216 (2013) threw out statements and a gun found during what was found to be an illegal search of Mr. Pacheco’s vehicle.  Mr. Pacheco and his passenfers were parked in a State Park parking lot after hours.  A State Trooper approached the vehicle and asked the occupants if they had been smoking marijuana.  The occupants replied in the affirmative and the trooper order all 5 people out of the car.  After searching each person and found nothing, the trooper then proceeded to search the interior of the vehicle.  The trooper found a small bag of marijuana in the back seat of the car.  The trooper then proceeded to search the trunk where he found a backpack with a gun inside.  The SJC ruled that the trooper’s search of the trunk exceeded permissible limits of a valid search since the amount of marijuana found in the backseat was less than one ounce.

Similar to the ruling in Pacheco, the SJC held in Commonwealth v. Daniel, SJC-11214 (2013) that finding an amount of marijuana less than one ounce on a person did not give police the right the search Mr. Palmer’s backpack.  The Court decided that the discovery of a non-criminal quantity of marijuana does not justify a further search.

Finally, the SJC also ruled on the social sharing of marijuana, such as passing a joint back and forth between individuals.  Prior to the ruling in Commonwealth v. Jackson, SJC-11319 (2013) this type of action was considered distribution of marijuana, however; the SJC ruled that this was no longer the case and this type of social-sharing was no longer considered distribution.

If you have any questions regarding the changes and rulings in these marijuana cases or would like to discuss other criminal charges, please contact the Law Offices of Russell C. Sobelman, LLC at 781-581-1300.  We are located in Lynn, MA in Essex County.

By Atty. Lance Sobelman