Since 2009, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is no longer a crime in Massachusetts. The penalty is a $100 civil citation, and unlike with traffic tickets, there are no collateral consequences from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Principal Antonelli of Westford Academy is leading the charge on a proposed Massachusetts bill that would revoke the driving privileges for any teen under 18 years of age caught with marijuana, alcohol, or any other controlled substance. Under this bill, the driving privileges would not be restored until the teen completes a mandatory 3 month substance abuse program and pay a $1,000 fine. Principal Antonelli cites the growing trend of students not only bringing these substances to school, but also coming to class under the influence after having driven to school, as the primary reason to impose the tougher laws.
Principal Antonelli references the civil penalty of only $100 as being an insufficient deterrent to the marijuana problem in his school. However, there are a few other deterrents outlined in the law if the person cited is under 18. First, the teen’s parents are notified of the citation, and there is a drug awareness program that the teen must complete within one year of the citation. If he or she fails to do so, the fine increases to $1,000, and the parents of that teen are held jointly and severally liable for that amount. That means that if the teen cannot come up with the payment, the parents are on the hook for the full $1,000 fine.
In response to Principal Antonelli’s concerns that teens are driving while impaired, nothing in the decriminalization of marijuana lessens the penalties for operating under the influence of drugs. The penalties are the same for operating under the influence of marijuana as they are for operating under the influence of alcohol. And for operators under 18, the penalties under Massachusetts law for Operating Under the Influence are much tougher than those for adults.
If you or your teen has been charged with Operating Under the Influence of Drugs or any other Massachusetts criminal offense, contact my office for your free phone consultation:
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
(617) 830 – 2188