Pubdate: Wed, 15 Feb 2012 Source: Daily Free Press (Boston U, MA Edu) Copyright: 2012 Back Bay Publishing, Inc. Contact: http://www.dailyfreepress.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/796 Author: Amelia Pak-Harvey & Thea Di Giammerino LEGISLATION UPS CONSEQUENCES FOR POT POSSESSION UNDER OUNCE Recent drug legislation is changing to penalize suspects who possess less than an ounce of marijuana, making the Commonwealth's future with medical marijuana uncertain. Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana in 2008, ruling that suspects caught with less than an ounce of the drug will receive a $100 fine at the most. But on Monday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated people found with any amount of the drug could still be charged with the intent to distribute, a crime that could potentially end in jail-time for the offender. Following a recent appeal to a Massachusetts court about the discrepancy in the law, the Supreme Judicial Court reviewed the 2008 ruling and found that no matter how much marijuana a person has, he or she can still be tried with the intent to distribute. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland acknowledged the 2008 voter-approved statute that decriminalizes marijuana possession under an ounce, but said it "did not repeal the offense of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute," in his published opinion. "As such, while the voters, through the act, made specific amendments to the simple possession statute, the voters did not make any changes to [the statute] concerning the crime of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute," he said. Under the state's Controlled Substances Act, a person who knowingly distributes marijuana, a Class D controlled substance, can face up to a two-year prison sentence or a maximum $5,000 fine, a sentence that increases for more convictions. The court also ruled the intent to distribute does not have to involve a sale. It quoted another case in defining the intent to distribute is a fact inferred from all the facts and circumstances of the case. "I feel like the intent to distribute is very iffy," said Boston University Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences freshman Madeline Alexander, adding, "I think the police officers can use a lot of bias in their judgment depending on who they're arresting with the pot." The questions surrounding the drug may be indicative of the nation's undecided stance on it. Sixteen states, for example, currently allow their citizens to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Not only has this caused debate in the other 34 states about possibly legalizing medical marijuana, it has also posed quandaries to the states that do allow it. California, the state with the longest history of legal medical marijuana, has no law regulating the amounts of THC in the medical cannabis that doctors can prescribe. Some marijuana retailers can -- and do -- advertise the THC levels in the different strains of the drug they sell, but the numbers are not officially approved by the federal government, according to a LA Times article published on Monday. Under federal law, any sort of marijuana possession is illegal, and this leads to gaps in the law where state regulations and federal regulations do not meet. For example, employers who subject their workers to random drug tests do not have to recognize the difference between licensed cannabis users and unlicensed cannabis users, said BU Professor Kabrina Chang in her paper, "High Risk Employment: The Management Headache over Medical Marijuana." "In the states where medical marijuana is legal," she wrote, "very few laws indicate how its use impacts employment rights." - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.