Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill this past Wednesday adopting a state panel’s recommendations to deal with police stops of drivers suspected of being impaired due to cannabis use. Even though I’m a very serious safety advocate, as a Massachusetts OUI/DWI attorney, I have one major objection to this bill, as presently written.

The Special Commission on Impaired Driving, which is part of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission was created within the law that legalized recreational marijuana use. It made 19 recommendations that were almost passed unanimously, with the one dissenter on the commission being the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). I don’t normally agree with the ACLU on a variety of legal issues, but as a Massachusetts drugged driving lawyer I believe the ACLU’s objection here is sound. Essentially, that objection is based in scientific research that has fairly convincingly established three important points: 1) While marijuana does impair operating a motor vehicle, the level of impairment is closer to distracted driving – far less than the impairment posed by drunk driving; 2) Currently, no medical or scientific tests exist which can accurately measure a driver’s level of impairment while using marijuana, in the manner that a breathalyzer can measure with alcohol. That’s because there is no clinical correlation between the level of THC in a person’s bloodstream (cannabis’ main psychoactive compound) and a level of impairment. Most experts say that such tests are most likely three to five years away from commercial use. 3) Presently, any blood tests for cannabis can only reveal past marijuana use, not present impairment. THC remains in the bloodstream for days after use – thus, you could be blood-tested for pot use today, not have used it for several previous days, and yet it would appear “present” in your blood test. This could lead to innocent people who were not impaired at all by pot while driving, being convicted and punished.

This is extremely important because, under the bill’s proposals, if drivers who are stopped by police and suspected of being stoned, refuse police demands for a biological (blood) test, they would lose their driver’s licenses for at least six months – the same penalty for suspected drunk drivers that refuse to take a breathalyzer test. On this point, the Massachusetts ACLU chapter has commented that “Motorists shouldn’t be faced with losing their license for refusal to submit to a test that does not measure impairment,” That point, I agree with. However, as the ACLU is want to do, they also stated, “In addition, this [penalty of six month loss of drivers license if a driver refused a chemical test for pot] could exacerbate the problem of racial disparities in enforcement.” That point, I disagree with (one more example of the ACLU never seeing a public safety law that it didn’t oppose.)

Attorney General Maura Healey announced yesterday that a massive statewide fentanyl bust on Thursday, yielding 77 pounds of other drugs, including heroin, cocaine and opiate tablets, as well as $300,000 in cash. Law enforcement officials claimed that enough fentanyl was seized to possibly kill every person in Massachusetts. A dramatic description, for certain.

The six-month wiretap operation, conducted by a joint task force of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents, the Massachusetts AG’s office, Boston police and other law enforcement agencies, resulted in the seizure of the drugs and the arrest of 37 separate suspects, including the alleged local kingpin, Robert Contreras of Roxbury. Contreras has been ordered held on $1 million bail on felony drug charges. The Boston Herald, quoting prosecutors, reported that evidence indicates that Contreras’ organization would receive the drugs from a much larger wholesaler, Mexico’s brutal Sinaloa cartel, them distribute them to lieutenants throughout the region, who would then supply lower-level dealers to addicts. Continue reading

Here’s a very interesting hypothetical legal question:  Let’s assume that “Dave Defendant” is convicted of a certain crime – whether a misdemeanor or felony –and is sentenced to probation.  Part of his probation terms require that he remain drug-free, and submit to random drug tests administered by the Department of Probation.

One day, Dave Defendant’s drug tests come back positive for a controlled substance.  His probation officer brings Defendant back before a judge, for what’s known as a “probation violation” hearing. The judge finds that Defendant had indeed tested positive for prohibited drugs, which means that Defendant violated the terms of his probation – which authorizes the judge to sentence Defendant to jail.  Should this be done – should such a person be sentenced to jail for relapsing during drug recovery? Continue reading

Just a couple of days ago, a man was arrested and charged with serious felony counts on Massachusetts drug charges, in Lawrence District Court.  Except this case is rather unique.  You see, this defendant didn’t end up in handcuffs or court in the usual way:  Being arrested by the police.  He ended up in jail because his 11 year-old son called the police on his father – effectively, turning him in.

The boy the called Lawrence Massachusetts Police Department on his father, Yamil Mercado, after allegedly seeing his father deal drugs out of their home there.  Mercado reportedly surrendered to police last Thursday, one day after the boy called police to say that he and his 13-year-old cousin had found what they believed were drugs in the father’s luggage, according to a police report. The boy reportedly also told police that he’d witnesses his father in a drug deal just a day few days earlier. Continue reading

As a Massachusetts drug arrest defense lawyer, I never cease to be amazed at the resistance I see to the will of the voters on the subject of marijuana legalization, from both the federal government, as well as local government here in Massachusetts.  It really is stunning.  I say this as someone who is not a recreational user of marijuana, but as an attorney who has seen far too many people’s reputations and lives damaged due to criminal accusations connected with pot use.  Equally troubling is the massive amount of taxpayer dollars that are spent on police departments and prosecutors to prosecute use of a substance that almost always involves a victimless and harmless fact pattern.

I consider the source of the federal government’s resistance to be obvious:  Big Pharma, which does not want cannabis legalized for either medicinal or recreational use.  The smple reason?  They want the public to use their drugs – the FDA “approved” drugs – for relief from pain and a whole host of physical diseases and ailments – and cannabis has been shown to provide relief from a variety of illnesses, from Parkinson’s to ALS, to cancer treatments, to anxiety.  The pharmaceutical drug companies that make their “approved” drugs, make billions of dollars through the choke-hold they have on those drugs to treat these conditions.  And they don’t want to have to compete with cannabis, and lose billions in the process. Continue reading

I’ve written on this blog previously about the Massachusetts drug lab scandal, and I tweeted earlier this week about the latest , very significant development surrounding that scandal.

This colossal mess began almost 5 years ago, with the discovery that a Massachusetts drug lab chemist, Annie Dookhan, had spent years intentionally falsifying the lab tests that were submitted to the drug lab for content analysis for use by state prosecutors in drug cases.  The cases of  approximately 20,000 Massachusetts drug defendants and drug convicts were affected by her actions.  For several years now, state and court officials have grappled with what to do with these cases and convictions, which came to be called the “Dookhan defendants.” Continue reading

Well, as of midnight tonight, marijuana is finally legalized in Massachusetts.  Despite the dire predictions of tone-deaf politicians and law enforcement officials, despite the moral protestations of religious leaders including the Catholic church, the voters of Massachusetts saw through the smoke and mirrors (pardon the pun,) and approved what so many other states have already done:  Made possession of limited amounts of cannabis legal. Voters here had already decriminalized marijuana in 2008, and approved medical marijuana in 2012.  Reflecting the cluelessness of many of Beacon Hill, all three measures had to be approved by citizen ballot measures, as the legislature consistently refused to act. In a growing trend of sanity on this issue, Massachusetts voters joined voters in Maine, California, and Nevada on Nov. 8.  Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, Alaska, and the District of Columbia also voted to legalize marijuana in recent years. Continue reading

In my previous post on this topic, I wrote about how prosecutors in Massachusetts must prove that any allegedly illegal substances that the Commonwealth accuses a defendant of possessing, using, or distributing, have actually been tested by a qualified chemist in the state drug lab, and that the substance is indeed either a controlled substance or an illegal drug.   That’s the first, threshold legal issue in any Massachusetts drug offenses prosecution.  Continue reading

When what you do in your profession involves defending as legal counsel people who have been charged with some very serious crimes, a common question is “How can you defend people who have been accused of such serious crimes?”  My answer, as a Wrentham  Mass. criminal defense attorney, is always the same:  “Because they may be legally innocent.”

Drug crimes are an area that many people misunderstand – or perhaps more accurately, mis-context.  They often assume that anyone charged with a Massachusetts drug offense must be some kind of drug-crazed criminal, or the local version of something like a ‘drug lord.’  Hardly.  In fact, the truth is almost anything but this. Some examples?   Being found by police to be carrying a controlled substance without a prescription on your person.  This could happen while traveling through Logan Airport, or even if stopped in your car by police.   Or providing any of your prescription pain medication to another person because they were in pain and couldn’t locate or get an appointment with their own doctor right away.  Or selling or buying more than an ounce of marijuana to another (yes, pot.)  Or a student who gives some of his or her Ritalin prescription to a friend in advance of exams.  The list goes on and on.  As a Massachusetts drug charges lawyer, I can say with certainty that 85%-90% of my Massachusetts drug charges clients are definitely not dangerous drug criminals. Continue reading

No, the title of this post is not some Republican campaign slogan, and it’s not a joke, either.

Barack Obama’s Drug Enforcement administration (DEA) today issued its final decision that marijuana is to remain on the federal government’s list of the most highly dangerous and regulated drugs, the Associated Press reported today.   The decision followed a petition by the governors of Washington state and Rhode Island to reclassify pot into a far less severe category.  Note:  That petition by the governors of the above states was filed at the DEA in 2011 – yes, it has taken the DEA five years to arrive at not only any decision in this matter, but the most scientifically and socially unsupported decision possible.  This is your tax dollars at work: Stonewalling, inefficiency, foot dragging.

So why would the federal government take five years to reach this insulting and unsupportable decision?  Two words:  Politics and money – inseparable bedfellows.  You see, controlled substances (regulated drugs) are classified by the DEA into five different “schedules” – from the most dangerous drugs that the federal government has declared have no medicinal value (“Schedule 1”,) to the least dangerous drugs that the DEA has declared do have medicinal value (“Schedule 5”.)  Example:  Heroin is classified as a Schedule 1 drug.  Care to know where marijuana has been classified, for over 70 years?  Correct:  Schedule 1 – along with the likes of heroin – and extremely dangerous drug, with extremely high addiction potential.