On February 13, 2012, the Supreme Judicial Court provided some clarity on the impact of the decriminalization of marijuana possession in Massachusetts (Commonwealth v. Keefner). Simple possession, of less than one ounce, is only a civil offense and not a crime. M.G.L. c. 94C, § 32L.
Possession of any amount, with the intent to distribute it however, remains a crime regardless of quantity, and the term distribute is not limited to actual sales (however, the court declined to define the maximum extent of what constitutes “distribution”). On the other hand though, the court clearly reminded all police officers that even if they have probable case to believe a person possesses marijuana, such will no longer justify a warrantless search of a person. While still technically illegal (subjecting violators to a civil fine), mere possession is only a civil offense, and the police are not permitted to conduct warrantless, non-consensual searches to prove a civil offense occurred.