Can a Minor Face Marijuana Possession Charges?

April 22, 2022 by Anthony Riccio

Marijuana possession is now a civil offense in Massachusetts, punishable by a $100 fine for first offense and an additional $50 fine for each subsequent offense.

Despite the fact that adults can legally possess marijuana in small amounts, a minor caught in possession could face serious criminal penalties, including jail time and hefty fines. Repeat offenders are always criminally charged, even if they received a civil citation the first time.

Legal definition of “old enough” for a minor varies by state, but anyone under age of 16 is still considered a child in need of parental guidance.

In Massachusetts, a minor can face these charges for a marijuana-related offense.

Marijuana Possession by a Minor

A minor in Massachusetts caught with marijuana, can face fines, jail time, and a permanent criminal record.

Laws governing possession of marijuana by minors are heavily influenced by the amount of marijuana found by law enforcement. It’s a civil offense to possess less than 1 ounce of marijuana. As a result, minors would be required to pay a fine rather than face criminal charges.

Many factors influence how a court fine is set, like a minor’s age and any previous drug offense charges. Even if a minor doesn’t face criminal charges for possessing, a civil infraction will still appear on their record when prospective employers conduct background checks.

Depending on offense severity, a court may order minors to pay a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000, perform community service equal to that fine, or both.

Possession With Intent to Distribute by a Minor 

If caught with more than an ounce, a minor can be charged with possession with intent to distribute—which is explicitly illegal for anyone under 21—and face fines between $1,000 and $5,000 and up to two years in prison.

When charged with possession with intent to distribute, it’s important to know your options. There are several potential defenses that we can come up with to avoid criminal charges.

Some possible defenses include:

  • No intention to distribute marijuana. A minor may not have intended to sell or distribute drugs. Amount of drugs found on a minor may have been sufficient for personal use only, not for distribution or sale. Therefore, we will argue that the amount was not consistent with an intent to distribute, but rather for personal use only.
  • If drugs were discovered in a location where others had access to, and did not belong to a minor.

If a minor is caught with marijuana in their possession while driving under the influence, it complicates matters. Because driving under the influence is a serious offense, a minor could face jail time even if only marijuana was in their system rather than alcohol.

Cultivation of Marijuana by a Minor

Cultivation of marijuana is illegal in Massachusetts, but there are exceptions. 

Minors with a marijuana-derived drug that a doctor has prescribed can legally possess it (up to 10 ounces) as long as they don’t use or cultivate marijuana themselves. 

The only exception to this law is if a parent or caregiver needs to provide it for a child who is under medical supervision.

Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia by a Minor

When charged with possession of marijuana paraphernalia for a minor in Massachusetts. It’s important to immediately seek a lawyer to avoid the following:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • A permanent criminal record

There are different marijuana ‌paraphernalia, and each kind could carry different penalties.

A well-known type of paraphernalia in Massachusetts is most likely a bong or pipe used for smoking marijuana. Possession of one may result in a hefty fine (up to $500) or even prison time, depending on circumstances.

Other, less well-known types of paraphernalia, such as an electronic vaporizer pen or a pipe used to smoke crack cocaine, carry much harsher penalties in Massachusetts.

If a minor is charged with possession of paraphernalia, a penalty is determined by age and whether it’s a first-time offense. 

Anyone who knowingly or intentionally sells, gives, delivers, or provides drug paraphernalia to a minor can face up to 15 years in state prison and/or a $10,000 fine under Massachusetts General Law Section 94C Section 32F.

Because every situation is unique, it is impossible to predict what will happen in any given case. However, if law enforcement accused a minor of providing or selling drug paraphernalia but did not do so, a lawyer can help avoid penalties for paraphernalia possession.

Massachusetts Marijuana Crime Law

Here are some ‌laws in Massachusetts that govern marijuana use:

  • A person under 21 can be charged with underage marijuana possession.
  • Legal adult marijuana usage age is 21.
  • When visiting Massachusetts, non-residents must follow state law.
  • In Massachusetts, people under 21 are not permitted to possess any amount of marijuana.
  • Adults over 21 may possess up to one ounce of marijuana or five grams of concentrated cannabis, such as hash oil, legally.
  • Adults can grow up to six marijuana plants at home, but only 12 per household.
  • Wherever tobacco smoking is prohibited, it is against the law to puff on a marijuana joint.
  • All marijuana must be kept in a trunk or locked glove compartment when driving.
  • Driving while under the influence of any drug, including marijuana, is illegal and punishable by law.
  • Since 2012, it has been legal to use medical marijuana, which is closely regulated.

Massachusetts has some of the country’s most liberal marijuana laws that apply to everyone. If you’re under the age of 18, don’t make the mistake of assuming you won’t be arrested or charged with a crime.

Whether minors face possession, charges must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Chances are higher in jurisdictions where law enforcement officials use sting operations to identify users, but most minors in Massachusetts will get lucky with a rarely smoked leaf in hand.

To see if your case qualifies for an alternative punishment, you should reach out to an experienced defense attorney in the Commonwealth. 

Riccio Law Can Help With Marijuana Charges

Contact Riccio Law today, and we’ll be happy to discuss your unique facts and circumstances in a free initial consultation.