All states regulate and control the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. Massachusetts classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as CDS, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.
This article discusses the possession of CDS for personal use only. Making and selling CDS carries different penalties. For more information on illegal manufacture and sale of CDS, and the related penalties, see Sale of a Controlled Substance Massachusetts.
Also, while marijuana is considered a CDS, this article does not cover Massachusetts’s marijuana possession and sale laws. To learn more about that topic, see Massachusetts Marijuana Laws.
How Massachusetts Classifies CDS
Massachusetts divides CDS into five “classes.” Class A includes the most dangerous drugs, which have a high probability of abuse and addiction, and no recognized medical value. Classes B, C, D, and E decrease in dangerousness and probability of abuse; and increase in recognized medical uses.
These classes are also used to determine the applicable penalties for illegally possessing specific CDS (described in the next section). If you’ve been arrested for illegal CDS possession, you’ll need to consult the Massachusetts Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group. Go to the statute (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 94C § 31) and find the substance you're charged with possessing -- it will be listed under one of the five classes.
Penalties for Illegal CDS Possession
It is illegal in Massachusetts to possess CDS without a valid prescription. Penalties vary according to the type of CDS possessed. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 94C § 34.)
Class A, B, C, and D substances (excluding heroin)
First convictions for possessing class A, B, C, and D substances (excluding heroin) include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both. Second and subsequent convictions incur a fine of up to $2,000, up to two years in prison, or both.
First convictions for possessing heroin incur a fine of up to $2,000, up to two years in prison, or both. Second and subsequent convictions incur a fine of up to $5,000 and two and a half years in a jail or house of corrections; or at least two and a half (and up to five) years in prison.
Class E substances
Illegal possession of class E substances is punished with probation, unless the sentencing judge files a written memorandum stating reasons for imposing other penalties. Upon successful completion of the probation period (and any conditions imposed by the judge, such as community service hours), the case will be dismissed and the defendant’s records will be sealed.
For more information of sealing adult criminal records, see Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Massachusetts.
Talk to an Attorney
Illegal CDS possession convictions incur heavy fines and long periods of incarceration. A local lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.