Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession

Marijuana is not “legal” in Massachusetts.

In 2008 a ballot initiative was passed by voters that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. While this does not mean that possessing a small amount of marijuana within the state of Massachusetts is legal, it does mean that possession cases that involve one ounce or less of marijuana are not a criminal offense and are not reported to one’s criminal record. However, those that are found in possession of one ounce of marijuana or less will still face a civil infraction and be forced to pay a $100 fine.

When Marijuana Possession is Still Criminal in Massachusetts?

  • If you are under 21 it is still a crime to have marijuana.
  • If you have more than an ounce, that is a criminal charge.
  • If you sell marijuana, that’s a criminal distribution charge.

Possession of More than One Ounce.

If you are convicted of a first offense for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, and if you have no other convictions on your record, you are entitled to probation (no jail time). Further, if you successfully complete probation for this offense, your record will automatically be sealed (except from law enforcement).

Second or subsequent offense:

  • Up to 6 months in jail;
  • $500 fine;
  • 1 year license loss (mandatory).

Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Marijuana.

If you are proven Guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, you will face the same penalties as someone convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Possession with Intent to Distribute.

No matter how much marijuana you possess, possessing it with the intent to distribute it is a serious crime.

Often this is charged and proven based on the presence of so-called “indicia” of intent to distribute.  These include the presence of scales, plastic baggies for packaging, cash,  records of sales, and multiple cell phones.  Of course, the more marijuana you possess, the greater the likelihood you will be charged with possession with intent.

Distribution of Marijuana.

You can be found guilty of Distribution of marijuana even if no money changes hands.  Sharing a joint, or a bag, can result in a charge of distribution.

Marijuana in a School Zone.

Even if school is not in session, possession in a school zone with the intent to distribute is a mandatory jail sentence for anyone 18 or older.