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The Last Weed Defendant

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  December 16, 2010

Rockett's mom, Anne Rockett, worries for her son. "It's been extremely difficult to see him have to put everything on hold," she says. "No mother likes to see her son in this sort of situation — especially since John was really getting his life together. He's just trying to do his best. I don't know why they can't see that."

Rockett has been to court more than 30 times since his September 2008 arraignment. Some brief appearances have taken minutes, with the defendant ordered to return later. Jury selection has been indefinitely delayed. His court-appointed attorney's motions to suppress evidence — which were all were denied — dragged on from months to years. The commute to court has cost him hundreds of dollars in fuel, and thousands in missed work hours.

Rockett could have pleaded guilty long ago and served prison time, but insists on fighting to the end. Police prosecutors from Attleboro District Court, and now the DA, are also stubborn, refusing to dismiss the charges on account of Rockett's checkered past. By comparison, the Suffolk County DA dismissed more than 400 comparable cases in the wake of decriminalization, and has long since resolved more than 100 others.

Steven Epstein, an attorney and treasurer for the local MassCann chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says Rockett's case, which is entering its 29th month of pre-trial hearings, is an outlier. Indeed, it seems that Rockett was merely in the wrong county, at the wrong time, with the wrong rap sheet and the wrong attitude.

Nonetheless, Rockett doesn't present himself as a martyr. Even if he wished to, the broken veins illuminating his nose would remind him of his past every time he saw a mirror. No matter how long he stays sober, his rap sheet will remain.

"For a long time I wanted to die more than I wanted to be alive," he says. "I don't want that anymore — I don't want to die. All I want is to work and make enough money to pay rent and buy food. All I want is for this whole thing to be over with so I can get on with my life."

Powerful figures are still fighting decriminalization two years after the passage of Question 2. Middlesex County DA Gerry Leone recently said: "We knew [decriminalization] was going to be a nightmare for public safety and law enforcement. An ounce of marijuana can make a thousand joints." Wellesley Deputy Police Chief William Brooks III, speaking on behalf of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, told the Boston Herald: "Most of the drug-related violence you see now — the shootings, the murders — is about weed." Some reform advocates say that DAs and police chiefs are waging preemptive strikes against potential statewide referenda that could further relax marijuana laws.

They have good reason for concern; last month voters in 18 commonwealth municipalities approved non-binding ballot questions to sanction medical marijuana or legalize weed altogether.

While the culture war continues, Rockett finds himself in a tough position. Other than one insurance violation and a 2003 arrest at Boston City Hall for disorderly conduct (the latter charges were eventually dropped), he claims to have led a positive existence since quitting booze. Rockett spent most of his adult years chugging 16-ounce Budweisers, and doing time for behavior that he now acknowledges warranted severe punishments. But while getting sober was the fight of his life, his case in Bristol County is a close second.

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Related: Photos: MassCann's 2010 Freedom Rally, The price you'll pay for drugs in Boston, Can Patrick Hang On?, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Marijuana,  More more >
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4 Comments / Add Comment


This man is being persecuted not prosecuted! How much did it cost the Bristol county and Commonwealth to conduct this witch hunt. Lab tests, Lawyers, Judges, Officers, clerks, probation....they are all on our dime, waiting for their pensions, so we can support them for the rest of their lives.

24 court appearances for twigs and seeds!! Are you kidding me. I thought justice was suppose to be swift. He has paid his debt for his past . This is a perfect example of our courts systematic failure, waste and harassment of citizens. Ignoring the will of the people... IT IS NOT ILLEGAL.

PS. I would like to meet the person that can get 1000 joints out of an ounce of weed! Fools!
Posted: December 15 2010 at 5:31 PM


If I were the judge I would put John Rockett on probation and community service of helping homeless persons with substance abuse problems get their lives together. The brother should step forward and own up to his part in the situation if that is indeed true.

It sounds as if the charge should be taken seriously but there should be no prison time here - just community service and monitoring of that by probation officers.

Illness can cause havock in any life and it caused a lot of problems for John Rockett so that he did not get a foothold in the years when he was becoming his own person. Society should be very forgiving of this - and we should look at where the community and government was in helping Mr. Rockett and his siblings at a time when that would have made a huge difference in his life and the lives of many other kids who have their lives turned upside down overnight.

Free him, with probation and allow him to work which will help his self-esteem and allow him to teach others that overcoming the odds can be done!
Posted: December 17 2010 at 1:33 PM


The cause for his being arrested isn't the quantity, which was, as you pojnt out, below the one-Oz limit. The arrestable offense was he that had it broken down into multiple containers (bags), which to the Police says "Dealer."

It's a nuance in the law, but following decriminalization, they've already used this on several people that I am aware of.
Posted: December 19 2010 at 7:08 PM


In a corrupt blind eyed society,Politics are more important than civil liberties and human rights.Everything else about our leadership sucks, why should the pot issue be any different.
Posted: December 21 2010 at 5:42 PM
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