The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that people caught with less than an ounce of marijuana can still be tried in criminal court if police and prosecutors can show they planned to sell the pot.
The declaration comes in separate rulings in cases from Great Barrington and Natick, in which police had evidence the arrested people were pot dealers - in one case a text message on a seized phone to the suspect about buying a pound of pot, in the other in which a guy was arrested with 14 plastic bags of pot.
In both cases, the defendants argued for dismissal because they were caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, and voters made that a mere ticketable offense in 2008.
But the court said simple possession and possession with intent to distribute are detailed in two separate sections of state law and that the decriminalization referendum only applied to the simple-possession section:
By creating specific exemptions in the simple possession statute, but not in the possession with intent to distribute statute, we conclude that the voters intended only to amend the simple possession statute and intended to exclude from the act's reach the separate and distinct crime of possession (of any amount of a controlled substance) with intent to distribute.
In the Great Barrington case, the defendant still won even though the court rejected his argument on the 2008 referendum - the court ruled a police officer did not have probable cause to search him and so the pot and cell phone on which he had the text message were not admissible evidence.