Since Massachusetts is one of the most recent states to legalize recreational marijuana, let’s have a look at some of their laws and rules so you won’t get into any trouble on your next visit to Boston.
Possession and Consumption of Recreational Cannabis
The momentum towards full recreational use in the state continued to 2016 when voters passed a ballot measure to legalize cannabis statewide.
After the measure was approved, it went into full effect in December 2016 along with a full set of rules for those looking to enjoy legal cannabis.
Under Massachusetts law, those under 21-years-old can’t purchase or even enter dispensaries in the state.
You can hold up to an ounce of cannabis on your body at a time and can keep up to ten ounces in your home. Consumers are permitted to grow six of their own plants at home, and up to twelve if two adults live there.
If you do opt to keep more than one ounce of cannabis stashed away at home, you’ll need to keep it locked up away from pets and children, as well as keeping it out of sight from public places where someone could see it without the aid of binoculars or aircraft.
No open containers are allowed in public spaces or in vehicles and, of course, you can’t drive once you’ve used cannabis.
Unfortunately for out-of-towners, cannabis use in public or on federal lands is illegal, meaning you’ll need to find cannabis-friendly lodgings to consume in since you won’t be able to take it out of the state without violating federal law.
With cannabis cafes in the state still a few years away, visitors looking to enjoy legal cannabis will need to find some other solution.
Medical Cannabis in Massachusetts
Driven by anti-Native American sentiment in the early 1910s, the state was the first to prohibit the sale of so-called “Indian hemp” without a prescription from a doctor. Nearly a full century later, they became the eighteenth state to legalize medical cannabis in 2012.
The ballot initiative made possession of less than an ounce of cannabis punishable by only a $100 fine, depending on the perpetrator’s criminal history. If the possessor was under 21 years of age, the minor’s parents would need to be notified, they’d be forced into a drug awareness program, and would have to complete ten hours of community service.
In 2012, 63 percent of voters opted to legalize the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, a law that gave patients a 60-day supply of medical cannabis for those issued registration cards.
The passing of the law allowed for 35 state-owned, non-profit dispensaries to open all around the state, only allowing patients to grow their own 60-day supply if they had limited access to treatment due to financial hardship or mobility issues.
Patients won’t get those cards unless they suffer from conditions like cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, ALS, MS and Parkinson’s disease and must be written by a doctor “with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship.”
A Slow Start For Legal Cannabis
Despite being fully legalized, cannabis sales got off to a slow start in Massachusetts.
While state law dictated retailers could sell consumers up to an ounce, many retailers imposed their own limits due to the incredibly high customer demand.
New England Treatment Access, one of the first two licensed cannabis retailers in the state, limited their customers to only an eighth ounce each.
That slow start might have had to do with individual cities and towns being able to ban cannabis via a voter from their citizens, limiting places where legal dispensaries could open for business.
Those looking to open their own dispensaries and grows could apply for retail, manufacturer, cultivator, craft marijuana cultivator cooperative and independent testing lab licenses.
While the start might have been a bit slow, the future for legal Massachusetts cannabis looks bright. The number of dispensaries has grown to five in the past year, with many more to come in the future.
The Future for Massachusetts Cannabis Laws
Experts are predicting a cannabis boom for Massachusetts in 2019, speculating the number of total dispensaries could spike up to 45 by the end of the year, with anywhere between four and eight stores opening per month.
Others have suggested allowing businesses without brick-and-mortar stores to operate as well as restricting the types of licenses given out depending on the size and scale of the business itself.
That spike could be facilitated by the recreational side’s current lack of vertical integration, something that exists for the medical side.
While legislation appears in the works to allow for customers purchasing cannabis to be able to consume it on-site at the retailer and permit businesses to let customers smoke, vape or consume edibles legally under their roofs, it won’t be voted on until June.
While it might be slow going at the moment, many advocates think that the future of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts is bright.
“In 10 years, this is going to be as normal as when you go to the Boston Common and see a movie and you can buy a drink,” Shaleen Title, one of the five commissioners of Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, told Boston.com. “But it’s not happening tomorrow.”