Consuming marijuana for recreational purposes is now permitted in Massachusetts, but other drugs remain firmly illegal. Cocaine has been extremely popular in the Bay State for many years, but individuals who use, distribute or traffic the drug face harsh penalties if they are charged and convicted. Most criminal cases involving cocaine possession, sale or trafficking are heard in state courts. However, if the drugs involved are distributed or trafficked across state lines, federal prosecutors will handle the case.
Drug classes and penalties
Cocaine is classified as a Class B drug in Massachusetts, which means the penalties for using or selling it are severe. Possessing even small quantities of the drug is punishable by a year in jail, and repeat offenders spend two years behind bars. Those convicted of selling 14 or more grams of cocaine for the first time spend between two and 10 years in prison, and subsequent convictions carry a custodial sentence of between five and 15 years. The harshest sentences are reserved for those convicted of trafficking the drug. Trafficking between 14 and 28 grams of cocaine is punishable by between 3 and 15 years in prison. Trafficking larger quantities of the drug carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
The penalties for using or selling illegal drugs in Massachusetts are even harsher when aggravating factors are present. Judges hand down stiffer sentences when the defendants in narcotics cases used or sold drugs within 300 feet of a school or within 100 feet of a park or playground. There are also sentencing enhancements for using weapons, making threats of violence or committing acts of violence. Severe penalties and harsh sentencing enhancements give prosecutors a very strong position, which is why most cases involving cocaine possession, distribution or trafficking are resolved by plea agreements they negotiate with criminal defense attorneys.
The maximum sentences for using or distributing cocaine are severe in Massachusetts, but they are rarely handed down unless the defendant is a repeat offender who is found guilty by a jury. Many defendants who have been convicted on drug charges forgo their right to a trial by pleading guilty in advance in return for reduced sentences.