Massachusetts Drug Possession vs Manufacturing vs Distribution

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The crimes of drug possession, drug manufacturing and drug distribution are very serious charges in Massachusetts. All of these are felonies and if you are convicted, the chance of serious jail time is high. Each of these drug charges can be complex, and even more so if any of the crimes were committed in a school zone. Mandatory minimum jail sentences often are the result.

Prosecutors in Massachusetts can charge you with a school zone violation if you were arrested on a Massachusetts drug charge within 1000 feet of a public or private school or within 100 feet of a playground or park. This is regardless of whether or not you intended to sell or distribute the drug in that zone.

It also is important to know that drug laws in Massachusetts do not have a specific amount or quantity of drugs that you must be found with to be charged with possession. You can be charged with possession even if there were vague and uncertain circumstances after the arrest. They also can charge you with manufacturing and distribution even if there was the smallest indication that you intended to sell the drugs. If you just have a box of Ziploc bags in the car, this can be enough to upgrade the charge to manufacturing or distribution.

Drug possession, manufacturing and distribution are described in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C, Section 32.

Massachusetts Laws and Penalties

To be convicted of possession with intent to distribute as well as drug manufacturing, the state prosecutor must prove the following:

  • You knowingly and intentionally possessed a certain controlled substance, meaning you had possession or you exercised control over it.
  • You intended to distribute, dispense or manufacture the illegal substance. The prosecutor must prove that you had this intent and this legal element will separate a charge of possession with intent to distribute, from just drug possession.

Possession with intent to sell and drug manufacturing are covered by the same statute – Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32. Thus, both crimes carry the same punishments. A conviction for a first offense of either crime can result in a jail sentence of up to 2.5 years. Or, you may receive a state prison sentence up to 10 years, if you were involved with larger amounts of drugs.

Both drug distribution and drug manufacturing charges carry mandatory minimum sentences. There also is a major difference between a House of Corrections sentence and a state prison sentence. The former is often a minimum security environment for non violent offenders. State prison sentences are for more violent and serious criminals. Drug distribution and manufacturing offenses may receive either a House of Corrections or state prison sentence. It depends upon the amount and type of drugs.

Below is more information about penalties for various drug crimes in the state:

  • Possession of heroin with intent to distribute: 2.5 years in House of Corrections minimum with up to 10 years in state prison.
  • Possession of cocaine with intent to distribute: 2.5 years in House of Corrections minimum. For a second conviction, you can receive at least a three year mandatory minimum sentence.
  • Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute: If the amount is more than an ounce, you can get two years in a House of Corrections and/or a $500 fine

For just drug possession, you can receive up to two years in jail for the possession of small amounts of heroin or cocaine. If you are convicted for marijuana possession, this can result in six months in jail, but if you have less than one ounce of marijuana, this is no longer being penalized in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Defenses

If you are charged with drug crimes in Massachusetts, you have several possible defenses. In a simple possession case, you may make a mere presence defense. This means if the drugs were not found actually on you, you can say that you were just present in an area where the drugs were found. The state will need to prove that you had constructive possession of the drugs and had the ability to exercise control over them.

Another possible defense regarding drug possession is that the police did not have a legal basis for seizing the drugs. It is very common to be able to raise motions successfully to suppress evidence collected in drug possession cases.

In all drug crime charges, it also is possible to challenge the validity of the evidence. It is not unusual for the weight of the drugs to be inaccurately obtained by police officers. This can be due to hydration or poorly calibrated equipment. Your attorney also may be able to successfully challenge evidence of intent to distribute.

Massachusetts Statute of Limitations

There is a five year statute of limitations for prosecuting non capital federal offenses, according to 18 USC 3282.

Massachusetts Drug Cases

  • Son Convicted for Selling Cocaine With Dad Gets Jail Time — A man from Randolph MA who was associated with a drug trafficking ring with his father was sentenced to four years in prison. Larry Lovell Bailey, 42, was sentenced in Boston to 46 months and three years of probation. He also was ordered to give up $300,000, a car and other property. In March 2016, the man pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
  • Couple Arrested in Massachusetts Drug Bust — A couple was arrested last weekend in Barnstable MA after a months long joint drug investigation. Robert Perry and his girlfriend Tayla Degrace were placed under arrest by law enforcement after they executed a search warrant on Perry’s home located in Hyannis. Detectives discovered digital scales, heroin, cutting agents, packaging materials and writings detailing how the drugs were distributed.
  • 3 Men Held on High Bail After Drug Bust in Haverhill MA — Three men who police say were operating a drug house in their Haverhill home were ordered to be held on $200,000 cash bail each after they were arraigned last Friday. Their defense attorneys attempted to argue for bail amounts that were lower, arguing the men were nota flight risk and would appear at court hearings. But the judge on the case refused to lower bail below $200,000.
Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.