On April 5, 2013, the SJC issued a series of decisions that clarified, once and for all, that socially sharing a marijuana cigarette is not the equivalent of distributing marijuana. Until these decisions, some law enforcement officers would try to avoid the impact of the decriminalization of marijuana, by suggesting that persons who socially share marijuana were drug distributors, even absent an exchange of value for marijuana.
Honoring the common sense approach to the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, the SJC has ruled that “the social sharing of marijuana does not constitute distribution in violation of G.L. c. 94C § 32C(a).” Commonwealth v. Jackson. In Jackson, the court determined that the officer, who allegedly observed two people sharing what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette, did not have probable cause to believe either of those people was committing the crime of marijuana distribution. Accordingly, searching the defendant was improper, because police are not supposed to search citizens solely on the basis of civil infractions.
The SJC applied the same logic in Commonwealth v. Pacheco, when it ruled that an officer who smelled freshly burnt marijuana, and saw a small bag (less than an ounce) of marijuana on the floor of a vehicle, did not have probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed, and could not then search the trunk of that vehicle for those reasons. Similarly, in Commonwealth v. Daniel, the court ruled that the smell of burnt marijuana, coupled with the driver producing two small bags (less than an ounce) of marijuana to the officer, was not enough to create probable cause of criminal activity to entitle the officer to search the vehicle (as there was no evidence the driver was impaired).
Although LaFountain & Wollman, P.C., does not advocate the use of drugs, it commends the Supreme Judicial Court for honoring the democratic process and protecting the rights of the people to be free from unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures. If you or someone you know has been subject to an unjust search or criminal charge, feel free to call us today to see if our criminal attorneys can help.