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Massachusetts

Cannabis Legalization in Massachusetts

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Massachusetts is one of a growing number of North American states to have legalized both recreational and medical cannabis. However, restrictions still apply with regard to possession, cultivation and consumption.

The decision to legalize recreational cannabis in the state of Massachusetts came as little surprise. All polls leading up to the formal vote suggested successful passing of the new legislation was inevitable. In addition, Massachusetts had been known for some time to have one of the largest adult cannabis consumption rates in the country. Formal legalization of recreational cannabis propelled Massachusetts into the limelight as one of America’s foremost pro-pot territories.

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*The content on this page is provided strictly for educational purposes only. Please abide by and follow the laws in your country.

When Was Cannabis Legalized in Massachusetts?

It was back in 2008 that voters in Massachusetts decided the time had come to decriminalize cannabis possession and use in small quantities. Two years later, Massachusetts became the 18th North American State to legalize the use of medical cannabis. A poll carried out in 2010 found that at least 10% of Massachusetts residents had consumed cannabis within the last month, while more than 15% had used cannabis at least once within the past year. 

Both recreational and medicinal cannabis use in Massachusetts were rife at the time of the vote for legalization, which took place in 2016. Massachusetts has since become a popular cannabis tourist destination among national and international visitors alike.

Who Can Buy Cannabis in Massachusetts?

The formal legalization of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts happened in November 2016. However, it wasn’t until two years later in November 2018 that the first official recreational cannabis sales took place. Since then, the industry has been slowly but surely finding its feet, resulting in the emergence of countless commercial cannabis stores across the state.

According to state law, anyone aged 21 or over and in possession of a valid form of ID can legally purchase cannabis from any state-licensed store. There are no specific restrictions on outsiders or international tourists, just as long as they bring a form of ID deemed acceptable by the store they visit.  Customers can expect their identification to be scrutinised heavily - particularly if it is an unfamiliar form of ID.

How Much Cannabis Can I Buy in One Visit?

Recreational cannabis law in Massachusetts states that each customer is permitted to purchase a maximum of 1oz of cannabis flower or up to 5g of concentrate per visit. However, there are no measures in place to prevent one customer from visiting several dispensaries within the same day. It’s therefore technically possible to buy as much cannabis as you like, though restrictions on possession continue to apply.

What Kinds of Cannabis Products Can I Buy?

The vast majority of commercial cannabis stores in Massachusetts have already begun selling an extensive range of products. Cannabis edibles have proved particularly popular to date, as have various cannabis concentrates on more creative product lines. Across the board, retailers face heavy restrictions with regard to the quantities of cannabis that can be sold to each customer on a daily basis. Irrespective of whether purchasing edibles, topicals or traditional cannabis flowers, you can expect the same basic limitations to apply.

For example, cannabis edibles permitted for sale in Massachusetts cannot contain more than 5 mg of THC per serving. Each package of edibles must not contain more than 20 individual servings, adding up to a total of 100 mg of THC. Things get even more complicated with more creative cannabis products – your budtender will explain your allowances in more detail.

What Are the Cannabis Possession Laws in Massachusetts?

Cannabis possession laws predominantly mirror the restrictions placed on commercial cannabis sales. Out and about, the law states that any one person is not allowed to carry more than one ounce of cannabis, or 5g of cannabis concentrate.  At home, this is increased to a total of 10oz of purchased cannabis on the property, along with any cannabis that has been cultivated at home. However, it’s important to note that any cannabis on your premises that exceeds the 1oz standard possession limit must be kept on your premises at all times and secured by a lock.  Civil penalties apply where excessive amounts of cannabis are not safely stored away – typically paying a $100 fine and the prospect of having your stash confiscated.

What Are the Rules on Cannabis Consumption?

Cannabis consumption laws and Massachusetts (and much of the United States in general) remain a little on the confusing side. For the time being, state law forbids the consumption of cannabis in any form in any public place. This means cannabis can only be smoked in a private residence or a designated private place, though the definition of a ‘private’ place is somewhat up for debate. In addition, individual towns and cities are authorized to draw up and implement their own cannabis consumption policies, should they wish to do so. As a general rule of thumb, cannabis shouldn’t be consumed anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited.

How About Cannabis Cultivation in Massachusetts?

One of the most attractive aspects of the new legislation in Massachusetts is the formal permission to cultivate cannabis at home. All Massachusetts residents aged at least 21 are now permitted to grow a maximum of six plants on their premises at any one time. If there are multiple levels within the same residence, this is increased to a maximum of 12 plants – irrespective of how many people are sharing the property at the time.

However, it is also a legal requirement to ensure that all cannabis plants are grown in an area that is both out of sight and secured with a viable lock or security device.  It must be impossible to see the cannabis plants from outside the property, without the use of binoculars or an optical aid. In addition, cannabis cultivators are strictly prohibited from producing DIY concentrates by way of gas or liquid extraction.  Cannabis cultivation has been legalised state-wide, though must be approached with due care and attention to avoid facing a penalty and/or confiscation of your plants.

Has Massachusetts Introduced New Cannabis Driving Laws?

For the most part, the state’s policy on DUI offenses remains the same. If you are suspected to be under the influence of cannabis while in control of a motor vehicle, you may be required to undergo a blood test at a local police station. If THC is detected in your system, the same penalties as those of alcohol-related DUIs apply. There are currently no accurate roadside THC testing systems available, so it’s advisable to err on the side of caution and avoid cannabis entirely when driving.

In terms of transportation, Massachusetts uses the “open container” rule for cannabis. Specifically, cannabis can only be transported in a motor vehicle in a sealed, unbroken container that is kept out of the reach of the driver. If the packaging is open or has been opened and resealed, the driver may face heavy penalties accordingly.  It is also strictly against the law to cross any state lines with any quantities of cannabis – even if crossing into a state where cannabis has been legalized.

Can I Consume Recreational Cannabis at Work?

That’s for your employer to decide, though it is extremely rare for any businesses in Massachusetts to allow cannabis consumption at work. The reason being that irrespective of its legal status, cannabis is still considered an intoxicant – just like alcohol. Alcohol consumption in the workplace is almost universally prohibited, so you can expect the same with cannabis. In fact, it’s surprisingly common for employers to penalize or even terminate workers for using cannabis outside office hours.

Is It Still Worth Getting a Medical Cannabis Card?

The legalization of recreational cannabis hasn’t had any real impact on the medical cannabis system in Massachusetts. The only difference being that should they wish to do so, medical cannabis dispensaries have the option of providing cannabis to qualifying patients with exclusive discounts. Not that many have chosen to do so, but it’s an option that exists.

Will Any Massachusetts Towns or Cities Ban Cannabis?

Theoretically, it could happen. However, if the town or jurisdiction in question voted in favour of the original cannabis legalization, a new vote would have to be put to the people. It’s not quite as simple as local legislators simply saying residents can or cannot access cannabis legally. The imposition of tweaked local policy is possible and already happening in some places, but an outright ban on cannabis in certain towns and cities isn’t a likely reality.

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