The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that the medical-marijuana law passed by voters in 2012 mean police can no longer bust into a house where they suspect pot is being grown without first proving to a judge the owner is not growing the stuff for medical reasons.
The law lets people with a doctor's note grow up to 60 days' worth of marijuana at a time, if they can prove they can't get to a licensed dispensary easily. The state does not yet have any open dispensaries - although one in Salem hopes to open this summer - and has yet to set up the required registration database for patients.
Ruling in the case of a Brewster man arrested after a raid on his house, the state's highest court said that because not all marijuana production is now illegal in the state, police have to do more than prove to a judge that marijuana seems to be growing in a particular place in order to get a search warrant:
Although as a general matter, marijuana cultivation is a crime ... the Commonwealth is incorrect that the act has not effected any change in the statutory and regulatory landscape relevant to establishing probable cause for a search targeting such cultivation. What [the referendum language) states is that nothing in the act "supersedes Massachusetts law prohibiting the . . . cultivation . . . of marijuana for nonmedical purposes" (emphasis added). Under the act, cultivation of marijuana is expressly permitted if a person or entity is properly registered to do so, and the cultivation does not exceed the amount necessary to yield a sixty-day supply of medical marijuana.
The court said it did not think this would put an undue burden on police, since they should soon have access to the electronic patient-registration system the state says it is setting up.
Because of the ruling, police can no longer use the marijuana seized in the raid against the man whose house they found it in.