On November 8, 2016, Massachusetts residents voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The criminal defense attorneys at Abilheira Law have analyzed this new marijuana law to tell you what is legal, what is illegal, and what issues remain unanswered.
What is legal?
Massachusetts law will allow anyone over the age of twenty-one (21) to:
- Possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences
- Possess up to ten ounces of marijuana inside their residences
- Grow up to six marijuana plants inside their home
- Give one ounce or less of marijuana to a person at least 21 years old without payment
- Possess, produce or transfer hemp
- Make or transfer items related to marijuana use, storage, cultivation, or processing
What is still illegal?
- Possessing marijuana under the age of twenty-one (21)
- Possessing marijuana in larger quantities that allowed by law
- Selling marijuana without a license
- Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so individuals possessing marijuana outside of the home, must take care not to possess it on federal property.
- Much like cigarette smoking, smoking marijuana in public places like restaurants, is not allowed.
- Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.
Unanswered question: how will “drugged driving” be measured?
One of the biggest questions stemming from the recreational use of marijuana is how impairment in driving under the influence or drugged driving cases will be determined.
Will MA adopt the Colorado Standard?
In Colorado, drugged driving is measured by calculating the level of THC in one’s blood. Having more than 5 nanograms of THC is considered impairment under Colorado law. Will Massachusetts impute a similar standard?
Is this test accurate and reliable?
Studies show that measuring levels of THC in the blood stream is not an accurate test for impairment for several reasons. First, different strains of marijuana can carry different potencies. Additionally, individuals can metabolize marijuana at different rates, so it will be impossible for those using marijuana to know when they’ve had too much to drive.
How will police enforce drugged driving laws?
Massachusetts may soon have to handle a high volume of individuals potentially smoking marijuana and driving. More drugged drivers on the road will require increased patrols, with officers specifically trained in marijuana detection and impairment. This may lead to departments training or hiring more Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s).
Police departments will also need to develop new field sobriety tests specific to marijuana that can be conducted on the side of the road. The field sobriety tests commonly used for driving under the influence of alcohol may not suffice when it comes to marijuana.
Finally, police departments will need to determine how they will prosecute those individuals who refuse to submit to a blood test. As we discussed in an earlier blog, the United State Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to criminally punish someone for refusing a blood test.
Follow Abilheira Law for up to date information regarding this changing field of law
Marijuana legalization in Massachusetts will take effect on December 15, 2016. Continue following Abilheira Law on social media to learn more about marijuana legalization as it happens.