On November 4, 2008 Massachusetts voters passed a ballot that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.  The Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative made the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana punishable by a fine of $100 without the possessor being reported to the state’s criminal history board. Minors also had to notify their parents, take a drug awareness program, and complete 10 hours of community service. Before decriminalization, people charged faced up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
The proponents of the change argued that:
- The change would keep the existing policies regarding growing, trafficking, and driving under the influence of the drug, while protecting those caught from a tainted criminal record
- Massachusetts could save $130 million each year
- Convictions of less than one ounce have been shown to have little or no impact on drug use
The opponents argued that the decriminalization would:
- Promote use of the drug and protect dealers
- Increase violence
- Create hazardous workplaces
- Increase car crashes
The law went into effect January of 2009.
On November 6, 2012, 63% of Massachusetts voters approved Question 3, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative.  The law took effect on January 1, 2013, eliminating criminal and civil penalties for the possessions and use of up to a 60-day supply of marijuana for patients possessing a state issued registration card. With a recommendation by a physician, patients with cancer, glaucoma, and other medical conditions can receive a registration card. The law allows for 35 state-licensed non-profit dispensaries. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has until May 1, 2013 to issue further regulations. Marijuana dispensaries will not be able to open until after the regulations have been set. The Massachusetts Medical Society opposes the bill, saying there is no scientific proof that marijuana is safe and effective.  After the law passed, towns attempted to ban dispensaries. Attorney General Martha M. Coakley ruled that cities and towns cannot ban dispensaries, and can only regulate them. Complete bans would conflict with the law. 
The Controlled Substance Act, the federal U.S. drug policy, lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. A Schedule 1 drug is a drug with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and “a lack of accepted safety for use…under medical supervision.”  In 2012, Colorado and Washington passed initiatives allowing the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. These laws do not change the fact that it is still against federal law to produce, sell, or possess marijuana. Non-medical cannabis is currently decriminalized in Massachusetts, but is not legal. 
Marijuana is the most common illegal drug used in the United States. A 2007 survey showed that over 100 million US citizens over the age of 12 have used marijuana. More teenagers are current users of marijuana than cigarettes.  The following chart shows percentages of Massachusetts’ population’s marijuana usage using data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration based on surveys from 2010 and 2011.
Assessing the total cultivation of marijuana in the United States is difficult, and even more difficult by a statewide basis due to the illegality of the drug. In 2006 it was estimated that there was 22 million pounds of domestic crop. Including the imported crop from Mexico and Canada, Dr. Jon Gettman estimates there is approximately $100 billion worth of crop available in the United States.  Gettman’s study, Marijuana Production in the United States, shows that Massachusetts ranks 44th marijuana cultivation by state, producing 12,700 lbs. of marijuana worth $20 million. 
2008 Freedom Rally in Boston
The Boston Freedom Rally is an annual event on the third Saturday in September. It is the second largest annual gathering demanding marijuana law reform in the United States. The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition organizes the event. The event began in 1989, and has been held on the Boston Common since 1992. The city of Boston has tried to stop the event, but has been unable to do so.
- Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative
- Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative
- Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition
- Law of Massachusetts