ACLU Challenges Commonwealth's View on Sharing Pot

Nov 19, 2012

Credit WikiMedia Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is speaking out against the Commonwealth’s persecution of those who share marijuana, despite a ballot measure in 2008 that decriminalized the drug. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

According to a release provided by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Massachusetts and the national Union, along with attorney Alex Philipson submitted a “friend of the court” brief on a state Supreme Judicial Court case, the Commonwealth v. Pacheco. The ACLU is arguing that those sharing decriminalized amounts of marijuana should not be charged with distribution whether there is money exchanged or not.

Matthew Segal, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts explains…

Segal pointed to the 2008 law approved by 65% of Massachusetts voters that decriminalized the use of marijuana. Under current law, those in possession of up to one ounce of pot in their possession can be subject to a punishable fine, but it is not considered a criminal defense. Segal continues...

On the Supreme Judicial Court's webpage the Amicus Announcement for The Commonwealth v. Pacheco reads in part:

"The issues presented are: whether the sharing of a non-crimianl quantity of marijuana for the purpose of smoking it constitutes unlawful distribution of the substance; whether the discovery of a non-criminal quantity of marijuana in a car's passenger compartment justifies a further search of the car's trunk and its contents. Paired for argument with Commonwealth v. Clint Daniel (and a companion case), SJC-11214, and Commonwealth v. Kenneth J. Palmer, Jr., SJC-11225."

In their release the ACLU said Pacheco stems from an incident after voters decriminalized marijuana when when a state trooper expanded a search of a vehicle after discovery of a baggie containing less than the 1 oz of marijuana. This search the ACLU considers unlawful.

Segal also referred to a 2007 case in Berkshire County, the Commonwealth v. Mitchell Lawrence. According to court documents, the defendant was found guilty of selling a small amount of marijuana, less than the now-defined criminal amount of 1 oz.,  for $20 dollars to an undercover law enforcement officer within a school zone. Segal said this is an example that now after decriminalization has passed, the Commonwealth need to change it’s stance.

Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless chose not to comment on the ACLU’s “friend of the court” brief on Commonwealth v. Pacheco.

As reported by the Boston Globe, Cape and Islands District Attorney and vice president of the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association, Michael O’Keefe, said that the ACLU’s call “a kind of incremental attempt to water the law down.”