The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that while possession of a small amount of marijuana is no longer a crime, one can still be charged with an “intent to distribute” crime.

In 2008, Massachusetts voters changed the law concerning marijuana, decriminalizing possession of less than one ounce. They did not go so far as to legalize the former crime, however, as possession of a small quantity still carries a potential civil fine.

In the spring of 2010, Shawn Keefner was arrested by police in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The police had found him sitting on a porch with friends, appearing to pass around a joint of marijuana.

They searched him and found a bag of marijuana and a cell phone. The phone allegedly contained text messages indicating that he had “customers” interested in purchasing marijuana.

In court, Keefner’s defense attorney argued that it was improper to charge him with criminal distribution because possession of the amount of “pot” that Keefner had was no longer a crime. He buttressed that argument with the lack of evidence that Keefner had distributed any marijuana for money. He prevailed in the trial court . . . but the Commonwealth appealed.

READ MORE: Distribution of Less Than One Ounce of Marijuana is Still a Crime In Massachusetts
The Daily Chronic, March 10, 2012