Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

In Part One of this post, I discussed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s fool-headed decision – both politically and scientifically – to be willing to “lead the charge” against an anticipated 2016 Massachusetts ballot initiative to legalize marijuana possession and use.

As a Wrentham Massachusetts drug charges attorney, I can assure you that alcohol – which is fully legal, regulated, and taxed – is at least ten times more addictive and dangerous than cannabis. Yet alcohol remains legal, while cannabis remains illegal. This insane legal and social policy has persisted for decades, and must end soon. Because cannabis remains illegal (especially on the federal level,) cartels and illegal dealers control its distribution. Legalization it will smash cartel control, will allow for orderly regulation of it. As respected national organizations such as the Marijuana Policy Project have made clear, current sales in the illegal market aren’t taxed or regulated. Black market dealers don’t care who they sell to or how old the buyer is. Legalization and regulation would put gangs and cartels out of business by bringing everything out of the shadows. Importantly, legalization will allow Massachusetts to tax marijuana sales – producing hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes that can be directed to much more socially useful objectives, such as housing the homeless, for one.

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As I write this post, I’m feeling a combination of optimism and disbelief. Optimism that Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has indicated he may support an approach to legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts. On the other hand, stunned disbelief that other Massachusetts political leaders, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, refuse to support this sane and balanced measure. Yet while figures such as governor Charlie Baker have indicated they don’t approve of pot legalization, none of them have indicated that they will openly, actively lead the charge against such efforts, either.

Enter Boston mayor Marty Walsh, who this past week said he’d be willing to be an open, public spokesperson against legalization efforts in Massachusetts if asked. Those legalization efforts are anticipated to take the form of a binding ballot question in the November 2016 (presidential) election, which would legalize cannabis in Massachusetts. This follows overwhelming voter ballot approval in 2008 to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of pot for personal, recreational use, and corresponding overwhelming voter ballot approval of medical marijuana in 2012. Thanks to a first-ever – and thus botched – state attempt to develop a sane and orderly license application process for medical marijuana dispensaries – we still don’t have licensed clinics and dispensaries operating here yet. Hopefully, that process will soon be rectified.

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I can’t say how pleased and proud I am that finally, sanity peeks through in the miserable failure that is the “War On Drugs.”: In the face of the current Massachusetts heroin crisis, a local Police Chief declares that opiate addicts walking in to his Police Department will not be arrested, but instead taken to a local hospital for addiction treatment. Why? Because heroin users are MEDICAL ADDICTS, not violent criminals – and they belong in a hospital and a medical environment, not in a court room and a prison environment. As a Massachusetts drug charges attorney, I can guarantee you that.

Imagine that: Medical treatment for heroin addiction, not punishment. Shocking, isn’t it? … And how sad that this idea isn’t universal policy at police departments across Massachusetts.

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello announced to the media on May 4 that opiate and heroin addicts who come to the Gloucester Police Department will not face Massachusetts drug charges – even if they are in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia such as syringes at the time they walk into the police station. Instead, they’ll get the help the so desperately need: What Police Chief Campanello suitably describes as an “angel” to walk them down the road toward detox recovery, and help them get the medical and hospital treatment they need. The medical treatment will partially come from Lahey Health Behavioral Services, which was recently awarded a $4.8 million grant to assist repeat patients in Lahey’s hospital emergency departments. Many of these “repeaters” to Massachusetts hospital emergency departments can return to an ED up to a dozen times a year, and present with addiction or mental illness issues. Lahey Health Centers will now provide these patients with the resources they need to get their lives back together, from detox services to food to transportation and housing.

I’ve written in this blog repeatedly in the past about how pathetic, foolish, and downright sad the federal government has been in its approach not only to drugs and drug policy in general, but marijuana in particular. Credible study after credible study has demonstrated that marijuana use is not only “not more harmful” than alcohol, these same studies have proven it is even less harmful than alcohol, and not chemically addictive. In contrast, everyone who is either awake or alive knows that alcohol is massively addictive, for many people. If you care to know just how addictive it is, look around you: Chances are, at least 2-3 out of the ten people you know, has some kind of a problem with alcohol. Need further evidence? Try checking out a local meeting of AA. I think you’ll be surprised.

It was more than 60 years ago that the federal government first wasted our tax money, and embarrassed itself enormously, with its financing and production of the long-since parodied film, “Reefer Madness.” For the past seven decades – over 70 years – this wildly laughable film has been the butt of more comedy shows, than most people could count. In the past one decade alone, 22 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws either decriminalizing or outright legalizing recreational use of pot. Has the world ended in those states? Have the streets of those states been filled alternately with doped-out zombies and crime-ravaged “drug lords”? Has civilized society “gone to pot,” filled with stoned losers and Cheech & Chong clones?

Laughably and clearly, the answer is a loud “No.” Yet here in Massachusetts, where voters four years ago decriminalized personal possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and two years ago overwhelmingly voted to allow a system of legal medical marijuana dispensaries, the federal government is now working to derail the twice-enacted will of the public. How?

Readers of this blog know my disdain for mandatory sentencing, whether for Massachusetts drug offenses, or a variety of other crimes. I’ve blogged previously about this subject, on more

than one occasion.

Some headway was made on this subject just the other day, when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder endorsed proposals made by an independent commission, to shorten prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, and provide judges with more discretion in sentencing. Holder offered his endorsement in appearing before the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which is an independent agency that sets criminal sentencing policies. If you haven’t read any of my previous posts on mandatory sentencing, these laws handcuff judges after a guilty verdict is returned by a jury: The judge must sentence the defendant to the minimum stated by a statute – regardless of the facts or circumstances surrounding the case. He or she has no choice. The number of injustices this approach has created, are many and troubling. This is true for a variety of drug crimes: Massachusetts drug possession charges, Massachusetts drug trafficking charges, Massachusetts Drug Possession with Intent to Distribute charges, even Massachusetts marijuana charges. (Many Massachusetts residents still don’t know that possession of more than one ounce is still a crime in this state – and the police love to find people with anything over one ounce – even 1.1 ounces.)

There’s a lot going on in legal news on this unusually freezing cold, arctic-air-blasted last day of February 2014, but I thought I’d drop a note for those who think they can outwit law enforcement and legal system when it comes to creative ways of hiding or destroying evidence.

Those who know me know that I don’t like scatological or bathroom humor. Try to crack a gross-out, lip-curling kind of bathroom joke with me, and you’ll either get the cold shoulder or a cold stare. But here’s a story that’s no joke: It seems that detectives from the Canton, Massachusetts Police Department, who are just down the road from my town of Westwood, Massachusetts, had an unusual assignment recently when it came down to preserving evidence in the arrest of a Massachusetts drug suspect. Detectives from that Department were on undercover patrol recently, when they moved in to arrest a suspected drug dealer in that town. Just before the cops got to him, they claim the suspect, one Julio Angel Rivera, 45, of Roxbury, began rapidly swallowing small plastic bags of a white substance they believed was cocaine. Seems Mr. Rivera thought he could put all the evidence out of sight, so to speak, thinking that if it were out of sight, there’s no evidence to charge him with any crime.

Except Mr. Rivera didn’t stop to think that what you swallow, doesn’t usually stay out of sight forever. So the suspect, because what he was suspected to have swallowed would be lethal to him, was transported to Norwood Hospital, where he was placed in the Intensive Care Unit, until police recovered the evidence “after its journey through the digestive process.” Rivera was reportedly then arraigned bedside in the hospital, on Massachusetts drug charges of with intent to distribute a class B narcotic. If you want to read more about this story, click here to see Fox 25 Boston report.

The War on Drugs in this country is something that I have repeatedly criticized as ineffective, only empowering drug lords (both foreign and here in Massachusetts) and destined to failure.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that law enforcement should play “any” role in Massachusetts drug crimes. It means that we should back off prosecuting people for marijuana charges, and treat users of heavy drugs within the health care system, not the criminal justice system. Such drug users should not be treated as criminals to be locked up, but as sick patients that need to be treated medically. Massachusetts jails and prisons are already strained to the breaking point, and it is violent criminals who belong there, not drug users.

Notwithstanding, Boston Police announced on Friday night (Nov. 15) that more than 31 people had been arrested on various Massachusetts drug charges, as part of a wide, coordinated investigation involving five separate Police Departments. What made this sting operation so effective, was the fact that Boston Police had secured approvals and orders from a state court judge to utilize wide-ranging electronic and wiretap eavesdropping on key targets. Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley characterized the 31 defendants as being members of a dangerous and highly organized Massachusetts criminal drug trafficking enterprise. Months in the works, the effort was nicknamed Operation Limehouse after a city district in London. The program resulted in police raids Thursday night and Friday morning in Boston, Quincy, and other cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts.

Most everyone in Massachusetts knows that voters here voted to decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana effective January 2009, and also voted just last November 2012 to legalize the use of medical marijuana. As a Boston, Massachusetts drug offenses lawyer, I think these are rational, sound decisions. But how do they impact OUI/DUI arrests and prosecutions in Massachusetts?

The legal answer to that question can sometimes be murky. Incorporating existing OUI/DUI laws in Massachusetts into the new regulatory structure that is being created by state public health officials to accompany the arrival of medical marijuana facilities, is proving to be somewhat of a challenge. One particular legal question will be this: How will or how should existing Massachusetts drugged driving and OUI laws be applied, if at all, to a motor vehicle operator who is a legitimate medical marijuana patient?

Currently, Massachusetts law provides for substantial criminal penalties for someone operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of not only alcohol – but a variety of different drugs, including narcotics, stimulants, or depressants. The main difference between alcohol and other drugs, is that while alcohol is metabolized by the body fairly quickly, many different types of other drugs remain chemically detectable for much longer than alcohol. Thus, a person could hypothetically use medical marijuana one evening, and the next afternoon or evening, if he or she were stopped by police under suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while drugged and their blood was tested, it would likely test positive for the drug. This could be so even though the person was not actually under the influence at the time they were stopped by police.

As a Boston, Massachusetts drug crimes lawyer, I believe quite strongly that the Massachusetts court system, and our Massachusetts law enforcement operations, waste their time and resources when it comes to making arrests over the possession of marijuana. In my professional opinion, marijuana is a harmless drug that’s non-addictive – and yet, the court system, and law enforcement, continue to pursue Massachusetts marijuana drug arrests, a “Class D” substance, as though it were a “Class A” substance such as heroin or morphine, or a “Class B” substance such as cocaine, LSD, PCP, or Ecstasy.

In the latest example of this, consider this following story from FOX25 in Boston.

This past Friday, April 12, in Everett, Mass., a 28-year-old Arizona man was arrested after police discovered more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana inside his rented truck. Police offers charged Mr. Luis Barrios, of Tuscon, Arizona, with Massachusetts marijuana trafficking, as well as the crime of operating a motor vehicle without authority. According to police reports, after being stopped, Mr. Barrios showed difficulty in locating his motor vehicle registration, as well as the signed rental agreement for the Ryder truck he was sitting in, and driving. A K-9 team was also used to determine the presence of drugs in the Ryder truck. Mr. Barrios will be arraigned next week, and will undoubtedly, require the services of a Boston marijuana arrest lawyer.

Despite the fact that public possession or use of less than an ounce of marijuana in Massachusetts was decriminalized by voters in 2008, police departments and District Attorneys’ offices around the state have still seemed intent on prosecuting people any way they can for the private, recreational use of small amounts of pot. This has not only been a direct affront to the public’s clearly stated will on this subject, it has involved a colossal waste of public resources.

Why do they continue to do this? Credible scientific study after study has made it clear that recreational marijuana use is not only not harmful in any malignant or serious sense of the word, but that chemically speaking, cannabis is not an addictive drug. Can people grow to enjoy it, or like it? Yes. Can some people become emotionally dependent on it? Depending on their personality, yes. But before any doubters latch on to those two answers with “Aha! You see – We told you so!”, remember this: People can grow to enjoy or like a lot of behaviors and substances in life. That doesn’t make those things addictive. As well, people can grow emotionally dependent on a lot of behaviors and substances – including music and comfort food. That doesn’t make those things addictive. Care to know three of the most chemically addictive drugs known to mankind – of the tens of thousands out there? Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Yet all three are legal across this country . Regulated (as they should be,) but legal.

Yet, we spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars prosecuting the use of cannabis. And, when the addiction argument on pot is proven wrong, opponents advance the “gateway drug” argument. This approach claims that, while cannabis itself may not be addictive, it leads to the use of other drugs (such as cocaine and heroin,) which are without question addictive. This is like saying that if you begin eating hot dogs, you will one day wind up abusing food to the extent that you’re 400 pounds and morbidly obese. People who abuse cocaine, narcotics and drugs like crack and heroin, do so because of deeply seated personality, biochemical and neurochemical problems – not because they smoked pot at one point.

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