Since the launch of Massachusetts’ recreational cannabis sales in November 2018, the state’s adult use industry has seen exciting highs and frustrating lows, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Here’s everything you need to know about the Bay State’s cannabis laws.
The Impact of Covid on Marijuana Establishments in Massachusetts
Medical Marijuana Treatment centers remained open throughout the pandemic, allowing registered MMJ patients to purchase their medicine online or by phone and pick it up curbside. However, it’s been a rough go for the state’s fledgling adult-use cannabis industry.
Although it designated medical marijuana dispensaries as essential, Massachusetts was one of the only states to require non-medical, adult-use cannabis establishments to close during the shelter in place. It wasn’t until May 18 that the Commission allowed these cannabis retail stores to re-open their doors and offer curbside pickup.
Most recently, the Cannabis Control Commission approved a motion giving adult-use establishments with licenses set to expire in June, July, or August an additional 60 days to renew. This relief is meant to accommodate the financial strain caused by the two shuttered months pot shops endured because of the Governor’s cease-and-desist order issued in March.
Rules for Cannabis Businesses
The law guiding marijuana establishment operations in Massachusetts is lengthy, so here’s the breakdown. Cannabis licenses: There are 10 cannabis license types in the following categories: Marijuana Cultivators up to 11 tiers, Craft Marijuana Cooperative, Marijuana Product Manufacturer, Marijuana Retailer, Marijuana Transporter, Marijuana Research Facility, Laboratories, Microbusiness, Social Consumption, and Delivery. You can apply for a cannabis business license online.
Location Limits: Marijuana establishments cannot be located within 500 feet of a pre-existing public or private school unless a local ordinance reduces that distance.
Number of Active Licenses: As of this writing, the Cannabis Control Commission has awarded 70 Retail licenses, 30 Product Manufacturer licenses, two Microbusiness licenses, two Marijuana Transporter with other Existing Marijuana Establishment Licenses, two Independent Testing Laboratory licenses, 34 Cultivation licenses, and one Adult Use Third Party Transporter license.
Vertical Integration: The Cannabis Control Commission requires medical marijuana dispensaries to align their operations vertically. This means that dispensaries have to cultivate and process the cannabis medicine they sell. However, since the launch of the recreational cannabis industry in the state (which is not required to vertically integrate), advocates for medical retailers and patients have urged the Commission to eliminate this requirement.
As stated in an August memo, the Commission is currently considering this consideration. Social Equity Provisions: Economic Empowerment applicants, Massachusetts citizens disproportionately harmed by the criminalization of cannabis who are seeking a marijuana establishment license, may be eligible for the state’s Social Equity Program. This program provides training and technical assistance to those who have been most economically disadvantaged by the war on drugs.
If you are interested in obtaining a marijuana establishment license, we recommend you consult with a cannabis lawyer as you work through the application.
Recreational Possession and Purchasing Limits
Marijuana is legal for personal use for adults aged 21 and older. Adults may possess up to 1 oz of flower and up to 5 grams of concentrate on them at a time. Residents can keep up to 10 oz of cannabis stored at home. In a private residence, any amount over 1 oz must be secured in a locked storage container or room. Adults aged 21 and over are permitted to give away up to 1 oz of cannabis to another legally aged adult. C
onsumption Laws Public consumption of cannabis is prohibited. For now, cannabis can only be consumed in a private residence. However, landlords are permitted to ban smoking cannabis in their lease agreement. Landlords are not permitted to ban consumption methods other than smoking.
In late September 2019, the Cannabis Control Commission voted to approve regulations authorizing the operation of cannabis cafes. Owners of these establishments will have to apply for a social consumption license to operate, but these licenses are not yet available, and it is within the realm of possibility that cannabis cafes will not be open for years.
Regulators will need to work out ways to ensure that people younger than 21 are not let into the facility, establish guidelines that help cannabis cafe workers evaluate the sobriety and safety of their customers, and provide guidance on how cafes can operate safely in light of Covid-19.
In late September 2019, the Cannabis Control Commission authorized the home delivery of recreational cannabis. License applications for delivery services became available on May 28, 2020, but these licenses will be exclusively held for social equity applicants for the first two years.
Delivery rules are as follows:
- Drivers can only deliver up to 1 oz of flower or its equivalent to adults who are 21 years old or older.
- Delivery will only be available between 8 AM and 9 PM.
- Delivery to shelters, hotels, dorms, federally subsidized housing, communities that have cannabis bans in place, or someone else’s home is not allowed.
- Customers are limited to one cannabis delivery order a day.
Delivery services for medical cannabis are available for patients registered with the state’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program. Cannabis Transport Consumers can transport no more than 1 oz of dry cannabis or 5 grams of concentrates at a time in a vehicle. Consumers must store cannabis in a closed container either in the trunk or locked glove compartment when transporting it from a retailer to their homes.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in Massachusetts. There is no approved short-term THC-test, but law enforcement officers will use field sobriety tests and drug recognition to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. First offense penalties can include any of the following:
- Probation for 1 year or longer
- Substance abuse classes
- Suspension of driver’s license for 45-90 days
At the state and federal level, transporting cannabis across state lines is illegal. If you are visiting Massachusetts, you must consume the cannabis you purchase in state before you cross back over the state line. You cannot take leftover cannabis back home. If you live in Massachusetts and would like to travel outside of the state, you must leave your cannabis at home. Transporting cannabis across state lines is a felony.
Massachusetts residents are authorized to grow their own cannabis. If you’re the only adult in your home, you can grow up to 6 plants. Multiple adults living in the same home can grow a combined total of 12 plants. Cannabis grown at home must be hidden from public view and secured in a locked facility or room.
Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts
Medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts since 2012. The legalization of adult-use cannabis does not affect a medical marijuana patient’s status. Patients who are Massachusetts residents aged 18 years or older may be eligible to participate in the program if they have one or more of the following debilitating medical conditions:
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s certifying physician
Before registering with the Medical Use of Marijuana Program, patients must receive certification from a healthcare provider with whom they have a bona fide physician-patient relationship. To register, you must submit an application online. The registration fee is $50. If you can prove financial hardship, you may apply for a waiver of the registration fee.
The Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis in Massachusetts: A Timeline
Here is a timeline of Massachusetts’ adult-use cannabis laws: November 2016 – Massachusetts constituents approve Question 4, the ballot measure authorizing the regulation of recreational marijuana. December 2016 – Adults are legally permitted to possess, use, and grow their own cannabis. However, there is no legal way to purchase cannabis. Gov. Baker signs a law delaying the implementation of cannabis sales by 6 months.
April 2018 – Applications for marijuana businesses are open. November 2018 – Cannabis sales officially begin. September 2019 – The Cannabis Control Commission approves regulations that will authorize the home delivery of cannabis and the operation of cannabis cafes. March 2020 – Gov. Baker orders adult-use cannabis retailers to cease and desist operations in response to Covid-19 outbreak.
Medical dispensaries may continue to provide cannabis through curbside service to registered patients. May 2020 – The Cannabis Control Commission authorizes adult-use cannabis retailers to reopen and provide cannabis through curbside service.