That’s why they call it the high court.
With 2013 proving a wicked awesome year for Massachusetts stoners who come before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, the top judicial panel has handed down its third major pot-friendly ruling of the past several months.
This time, the SJC of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ruled that just because you’re carrying around several bags of pot, that doesn’t mean you’re a dealer. At least as far as police are concerned when they’re looking for probable cause to charge you with “intent to distribute.”
But law enforcement officials say the court just made life a lot easier for low-level pot dealers.
Earlier this year, the court decided that “social sharing” of marijuana was not the same as distributing it. That is, rolling several joints from a single stash of weed and giving them to friends is not the same as dealing — though attorneys for the state said it was.
At the same time, the SJC ruled that merely smelling pot inside a car is not good enough grounds for police to search the vehicle.
The latest ruling, handed down Nov. 26, comes from a case in which high school officials stopped a student who reeked of weed when he walked into the school building one afternoon. The officials, including a police officer, searched the juvenile, identified in court filings only as “Humberto,” and found five plastic baggies containing marijuana.
The police officer arrested Humberto who was charged with intent to distribute the marijuana.
In 2008, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed a measure making possession of one ounce of marijuana or less a mere civil infraction, punishable only by a ticket. But distribution or intent to distribute remains a crime in the state.
Distribution can land an offender in prison for as long as 30 months and can also result in a drivers license suspension.
The SJC ruled that because Humberto had less than an ounce on him, he could not be charged with distribution, no matter how many separate bags he was carrying.
The court’s latest marijuana decision “basically says to dealers, ‘Carry an ounce or less of marijuana in five bags or less and you’re golden,’” said Suffolk County district attorney’s spokesperson Jay Wark, who added that court had provided a “blueprint” for dealers to skirt prosecution.
But defense lawyers say that prosecutors still haven’t come to terms with the fact that Massachusetts is a tolerant state when it comes to marijuana.
“I wish the district attorney’s office would accept the will of the people that possessing marijuana, in and of itself, is not a criminal offense,” Joseph Krowski, a defense lawyer based on Brockton, Mass., lamented.
Sources: Brockton Enterprise, ACLU, Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, TheNewspaper.com