Massachusetts marijuana laws got a Statehouse rewrite. Here’s what you need to know

The Massachusetts marijuana law is getting a rewrite. The state has actually two marijuana laws — approved by voters — that Statehouse lawmakers revised, largely behind closed doors. The...

The Massachusetts marijuana law is getting a rewrite.
The state has actually two marijuana laws — approved by voters — that Statehouse lawmakers revised, largely behind closed doors.

The medical marijuana law passed in 2012 and the recreational marijuana law passed in 2016.
The 2016 state law broadly legalized recreational marijuana use for adults ages 21 and over. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
The revisions are in a bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law on Friday, July 28.
Here’s what you need to know about the revisions, based on information provided by lawmakers like state Sen. William Brownsberger and others inside the Statehouse.

Homegrow and personal limits stay the same.
You can possess 10 ounces inside a primary residence.
You can possess 1 ounce outside the primary residence, or no more than 5 grams of marijuana concentrate, and you can gift up to 1 ounce to another person.

A household can have up to 12 marijuana plants inside.

You still CAN’T smoke it in public
Marijuana smoking is not allowed in public. You can smoke inside your home, though it’s complicated if you’re renting or on federally subsidized property. (More than 829,000 Massachusetts residents are renters.)

No criminal liability for homegrowing for persons under the age of 21
According one of the lawmakers who helped craft the rewrite, people under 18 and up to 21 will be charged with a civil offense if they have under two ounces inside or outside a residence.
Over 2 ounces remains a crime, but there remains an exception: Up to 12 plants at home and cultivated amounts to a civil violation.
If you’re under the age of 18, having under 2 ounces is a civil offense, coupled with a requirement to complete a drug education program. Over 2 ounces is still a crime.

Prior convictions can be sealed
People who have prior convictions for possession of marijuana can also have their records sealed.

Marijuana taxed at up to 20 percent, second lowest rate in the country
The voter-approved law called for a 12 percent tax on marijuana, but Massachusetts lawmakers nearly doubled it. They say it still puts Massachusetts at the second lowest marijuana tax rate in the country, same as Oregon.
Here’s how the tax rate breaks down: There’s a 6.25 percent sales tax, a 10.75 percent excise tax, and a 3 percent “local option” that cities and towns will be able to levy.

Can you sell pot edibles now?
No. A new state agency, the Cannabis Control Commission, will be putting together regulations over the next several months, and there will be an application process for selling pot edibles.

Retail pot shops slated to open July 2018.
Lawmakers delayed the opening of retail pot shops to July 2018, instead of the January 2018 date that voters approved in November. Lawmakers said they needed the time to craft the rewrite and get it to the governor’s desk.
It’s part of an effort to drive down the black market, since advocates hope that consumers will want marijuana that’s been through a regulatory process and a THC level that they can see.
We could see 10 or 12 pot shops in July, according to Adam Fine, an attorney specializing in marijuana law. The managing partner of the Massachusetts office of Vicente Sederberg, Fine helped co-write the original law approved by voters in November.

Working for a pot shop
The pot law rewrite calls for full background checks for employees of the Cannabis Control Commission and applicants for retail marijuana licenses.
But if you have a drug possession offense, you are not barred from a license or employment in a marijuana establishment.

Medical marijuana remains untaxed
Under the pot law rewrite, the state’s medical marijuana program is shifted from the Department of Public Health to the Cannabis Control Commission, the new agency.
There are nearly a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts, five years after voters signed off on allowing them within the Bay State.
Medical marijuana licensees had a leg up under the voter-approved law from November; the rewrite reduces that.
Unlike retail marijuana, medical marijuana will stay untaxed.

Welfare payments can’t be used to buy marijuana
No, you can’t use welfare payments to purchase marijuana, or for any purpose inside a retail pot shop.

Hemp will be considered an agricultural product. The provision in the law allows for cultivation of industrial hemp, but small growers will have an option for a cooperative concept, according to lawmakers.

The Cannabis Control Commission expands
Voters approved the law calling for a three-member Cannabis Control Commission under the state treasurer’s office.
Lawmakers expanded it to five, and took away some of the treasurer’s power over the commission.
Under the rewrite, the treasurer designates the chair of the commission but makes joint appointments with the governor and the attorney general.
The governor and the attorney general also get to make additional appointments.
Not more than three commissioners can be from the same party, and no commissioner can have a felony conviction.
One commissioner has to have a background in public health, mental health, substance use or toxicology
One commissioner has to have a background in public safety
One commissioner has to have experience in corporate management, finance or securities
One has to have professional experience in oversight or industry management, including commodities, production or distribution in a regulated industry
One has to have a background in legal, policy or social justice issues.

The commission will set up standards for packaging and advertising
The Cannabis Control Commission is tasked with overseeing packaging, the potency of retail pot, as well as standards for security and seed-to-sale technology.
Commission requirements, according to a release from Statehouse lawmakers, will include:
Certified child-resistant packaging and opaque containers.
Regulations regarding advertising, marketing and branding, including:
— Advertising is only permissible in markets where at least 85 percent of the audience is over 21;
— A product cannot be identified as safe other than CCC-regulated labeling.
— Bans retail shops near school zones.
— Licensees must have a publicly available software application to track and trace all marijuana cultivated, process, or manufactured, from seed-to-sale.
— Edible marijuana products will have a single serving limit of 10 mg of THC and cannot resemble any non-marijuana food product currently sold.
— Labeling to indicate that a product is or contains marijuana, and the amount of THC in the product.

How cities and towns will determine whether to ban or restrict pot shops
In Massachusetts, 91 communities (28 percent of the state’s population) voted against Question 4, which legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Those communities will not have to have a voter referendum to impose limits on retail pot shops; their local officials will have the ability to do that. They just have to do it before Dec. 31, 2019.
In the rest of the state, where communities voted “yes” on Question 4, there will have to be a voter referendum if local officials want to ban or restrict retail pot shops.