Does the DeCriminalization of One Ounce or Less of Marijuana Encourage the Police to Bring Possession With Intent to Distribute Charges
Within the last few years, the legislature has passed marijuana legislation which de-criminalizes the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. This means that it still isn’t legal to possess an ounce or less of marijuana, however, if the police catch an individual with an ounce or less, the penalty is a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket.
This marijuana law, however, has no impact on those possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute the same, according to Worcester criminal lawyer Shane W. Surrette. When determining whether a particular case involves simple possession or possession with intent to distribute, courts will look at many factors. Some factors in support of intent to distribute include: presence of packaging materials, high amounts of money, scales, various cell phones, and whether the drugs are in separate packages, ready to distribute.
With this in mind, if the police are in a situation where they find less than an ounce of marijuana within someone’s possession, yet they find that the marijuana is individually wrapped in several different bags, do these facts more closely resemble possession with intent to distribute or merely possession of marijuana? Similarly, since the factors listed above in support of intent to distribute don’t have to be present in every case, and since the police may proceed on an intent to distribute theory based on the packaging of the marijuana alone, does an intent to distribute charge seem fair if you have under an ounce of marijuana individually packaged?
As a result, what is going to be the dividing line between possession v. possession with intent to distribute marijuana. When in doubt, will the police just bring the criminal charge of possession with intent to distribute, and let the courts sort it all out?
Whatever the choice may be, the decriminalization of marijuana law seems to provide an incentive for law enforcement to upgrade their charges to possession with intent to distribute, whenever an ounce or less of marijuana is present.