It’s been a busy week for cannabis in the state of Massachusetts, where legal, recreational-use marijuana sales have just begun. As of November 20th, a number of legal recreational dispensaries have opened shop all around the state. Back in 2016, Massachusetts residents voted in support of Question 4, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21.

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Between then and November 20th of this year, the state was in limbo with recreational marijuana being legal, but no shops available to purchase it at. Under these circumstances, buying a personal amount of marijuana was legal, but selling to someone still was not. Adults over 21 years of age can now purchase weed legally in Massachusetts with the help of a dispensary.

Laws and Limitations in 2018

Now that legal marijuana sales are starting up in Massachusetts, many are wondering exactly what the law means for their recreational habits.

If you’re new to the world of legal weed, don’t get too excited and end up doing something illegal, like bringing your stash to work, where employers can still make and abide by their own rules about marijuana use. And if you work in a school, don’t even think about keeping your stash in your bag at work. Hint: it’s illegal to possess in a space where children attend classes. Don’t even think about it.

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BOSTON, USA-20 OCTOBER, 2017: Kendall Square near MIT campus iStock / Elijah-Lovkoff

The law states that anyone over the age of 21 will not be penalized for possessing an amount of marijuana considered for personal use, which is one ounce or less on a person, and no more than 10 ounces at home. Marijuana concentrate must be at five grams or less to be considered a legal amount on your person.

Just be sure if you’re traveling around the state, or even down the street with it, you keep it locked up and out of sight. It is illegal to have an open container of cannabis out in the passenger area of the car when on the road or parked in a public place. Keep it locked in the trunk or glove compartment to avoid any trouble while transporting.

Legal adults can also have up to six personal plants growing at a time, or up to 12 maximum plants in a household with more than one adult. You’re free to keep them indoors, where you have more control over the light and elements. If you prefer to cultivate outdoors, you can keep your plants outside so long as they can’t be seen from the street without binoculars. And if you see your lovely neighbor narc with their binoculars out, you can give them a friendly wave and breathe in the sweet oxygen relief from your six legal, personal plants.

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Anyone over the age of 21 can legally consume cannabis, but much like alcohol, it cannot be done in public spaces or federal land. This includes sneaky intake, like edibles or vaping. It also includes any spaces that strictly ban the use of tobacco. Nobody wants to smell your skunk clouds in a space meant for clean air.

Most proactive cannabis consumers know that driving under the influence of the drug is a big no-no. It falls under the same category as drinking under the influence, and can land you a DUI. If you’ve got that friend who still likes convincing others that they’re a better driver when high, remember that there is no breathalyzer for marijuana use. A test would just confirm recent cannabis use. This can work against you if you test positive and have no way of proving it’s been hours since you last toked.

Moving Forward

Top of marijuana plant staked up with large bud in front of light iStock / OpenRangeStock

Two years after legalization, access to legal marijuana has finally become more visible with pot shops opening their doors all around Massachusetts in the last week.

Opportunities for economic growth will continue to flourish in Massachusetts, where lawmakers previously feared the tax rate on legal cannabis was too low. The final decision for the sales tax on marijuana is 6.25 percent and the state excise rate adds an additional 10.75 percent. There is also the option of adding a local tax of up to three percent. Cannabis sales can be taxed up to 20 percent with this model, which pales in comparison to the 37 percent excise tax Washington state uses.

It was a hope for many that the new Massachusetts laws would get inmates previously incarcerated for marijuana possession out of jail. Those advocating for amnesty for low-level offenders clashed with enforcement officers who felt the proposal undermined the judicial system as a whole.

There is still hope for those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses in Massachusetts. The Cannabis Control Commission pushed for a Social Equity Program, aimed at repairing years of disproportionate marijuana-related offenses for people of color in the state, who, according to The Drug Policy Alliance, are incarcerated at a higher rate than whites, despite selling and using drugs at a similar rate.

Under the program, 29 cities have been designated areas of disproportionate impact. Anyone who has lived in those areas for five of the last 10 years, or has a past drug conviction and has lived in Massachusetts for a year will be given priority review for a business license to open a marijuana business. They are also eligible for extra training, legal assistance, business planning, and other benefits. The goal is to allow those who have been convicted in the past to turn around their convictions, and make use of the changing industry in a positive way.

Over the Years

Medical marijuana was legalized in 2012, after voters passed Question 3. The law took effect at the beginning of 2013, eliminating penalties for a 60-day supply of marijuana for individuals with a valid medical registration card. This law made Massachusetts the 18th state to legalize the medical use of marijuana.

The same year Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Four years later, Massachusetts became the seventh state to legalize the recreational use of the plant. California, Maine, and Nevada legalized recreational marijuana alongside Massachusetts in 2016..

As of November 2016, recreational cannabis use in Massachusetts is legal. Legislators voted to push the date of sales back a couple of times that year, with the new date falling in January of 2018, and later pushed back to November of this year. Much of 2017 was spent fine-tuning the law, changing around details about sales tax and working to come to an agreement that would leave all parties happy enough to move forward.

Finally, after two years of getting all the ducks in a row, recreational marijuana shops have opened throughout the state of Massachusetts.