Lynnfield youth armed with handgun

Published April 17, 2019

NORTH READING — Police are calling attention to the startling rise in youth marijuana use and the dangerous rise of a black market for marijuana. Both trends were evident on April 9, when a Lynnfield juvenile was arrested with a loaded handgun, after he offered to sell concentrated THC products to an undercover officer through social media.

North Reading police officers had been investigating the target for nearly a month after learning he was allegedly offering concentrated marijuana vaping cartridges to minors via the popular social media app Snapchat. They were alarmed to learn that the target, himself, was a minor.

NORTH READING Police seized a 9mm handgun and approximately $4,000 worth of marijuana products from the alleged 17-year-old Lynnfield suspect. (NR Police Department Photo)

“This case is a heavily-anticipated consequence of the current state of marijuana regulation and availability. Police have warned about, and are now observing across countless communities, the rise in youth marijuana use and the skyrocketing popularity of smokeless, sometimes odorless THC concentrate in vape devices,” said North Reading Police Chief Michael P. Murphy. “A profitable black market has been created, with easily available products getting into the hands of minors all across Massachusetts.

“In this instance, we have a child committing a very adult crime,” Murphy added. “The suspect arranged to meet who he thought was a drug customer, and he was armed with a loaded handgun for the occasion. There are countless ways in which this scenario could have turned out worse, had it not been for the calm reactions and professionalism of our North Reading police officers, but it should be a startling wake up call for everyone who does not fully appreciate the unintended consequences of marijuana commercialization.”

As a result of an investigation, a juvenile male, age 17, of Lynnfield was arrested and charged with:

• Possession with intent to distribute a Class C substance;

• Unlawful possession of a large capacity firearm;

• Unlawful possession of ammunition.

On Wednesday, March 6, North Reading Police detectives received a tip about possible sales of marijuana/THC oil cartridges being sold to high school-aged students in town, marketed via social media. Detective Paul Lucci, the North Reading school resource officer, initiated an investigation, taking note in his report of a trend that school resource officers across the country are aware of: highly concentrated THC oil used in vaping cartridges has become extremely popular among teenagers, and it has become much more widely available as of late with the commercial availability of marijuana products to adults. The investigation indicated that the suspect was allegedly using Snapchat to arrange, sell and deliver THC oil in North Reading.

Officers contacted the suspect using Snapchat and arranged to buy a quantity of THC vaping cartridges from him. After meeting at a commercial parking lot in town, other officers approached the suspect’s vehicle and identified themselves. At that time, the suspect refused commands to show his hands and reached toward his waistband. The suspect was restrained by officers, and a loaded Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun was found on him.

Officers seized the gun along with ammunition and approximately $4,000 worth of THC oil products — a quantity that far exceeds the legal limits set by the state. Marijuana concentrate is a highly-potent THC compound that is typically three to four times stronger than standard marijuana. Its use in e-cigarettes and vape devices has become extremely popular among teenagers because of its availability and because its use is easily hidden and disguised as a non-marijuana vaping product.

“We are seeing a rise around the region in marijuana use among young people through the use of THC oil in vape devices, and public safety officials are extremely concerned about the increased availability of drugs to minors,” Murphy said. “I urge all parents to educate themselves on THC oil, its effects, and how easy it is for minors to disguise its use.”


The use of an e-cigarette or vape device to use marijuana products is commonly referred to as “dabbing.” The use of THC oil by this method is smokeless and sometimes odorless, making it easy to hide. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high or psychoactive response. Concentrated THC oil can be more dangerous than smoking marijuana because it may produce drastically more intense effects, including paranoia, anxiety attacks and hallucinations.

Marijuana use has raced past tobacco among minors. A 2017 National Institute on Drug Abuse study found that nearly 23 percent of high school seniors across the country reportedly used marijuana products over a 30-day period, compared with 9.7 percent who reported using tobacco.

The suspect will be arraigned in juvenile court.

These are allegations. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.