They say good things come in threes. With Ballot Questions 2, 3, and 4 over the past few election cycles, Massachusetts has agreed to respect the will of its citizens and taken a legislative 180 degrees on many marijuana-related policies. Now, Massachusetts marijuana laws are progressing onward, besting other East coast states with a flow of independence that Thomas Paine would support.
It is! In fact, the legal status of marijuana in Massachusetts falls under multiple legal definitions in regard to access, possession, and use. Here is the legal timeline:
2008 – Question 2 transitions marijuana enforcement from criminal to civil offenses under specific circumstances. While not strictly legalizing it, possession of marijuana went from a severe cultural ailment to a mild fine ($100). Specifically, this allows youth over 18 but under 21 to be spared life-ruining criminal charges.
2012 – Question 3 created the legal framework for Massachusetts medical marijuana. Under certain conditions, patients could now legally use, possess, and cultivate marijuana.
2016 – Question 4 orders the implementation of Massachusetts boldest marijuana policy yet: full adult legalization.
There are currently a total of nine medical dispensaries from Brockton to Salem, with several in the surrounding Boston area. These medical shops will continue to operate as adult-use cannabis enters the state.
Massachusetts is well on their way to state-licensed retail marijuana; however, recreational dispensaries won’t be popping up until after the legislature has created the regulatory and licensing environment for the program – expected July 2018. Until then, Massachusetts has only medical dispensaries.
Medical patients are typically 18 years or older, with exceptions for pediatric patients under specific circumstances. A patient may assign a caregiver age 21 or older to pick up or grow medical marijuana on their behalf.
Adults aged 21 and up are able to purchase, possess, and use marijuana with certain limitations.
The Massachusetts medical marijuana program accepts medical marijuana certifications from qualified state-licensed physicians for the following medical conditions:
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
The physician may recommend marijuana to patients with other conditions or illnesses deemed “debilitating.” In Massachusetts, this definition includes weakness from cachexia (aka wasting syndrome), intractable pain, or nausea, and the illness must be causing fundamental reductions in the quality of life.
Once a qualified individual has received certification to use cannabis from their physician, the physician will submit the registration to the Massachusetts Department of Health. Within a few days, an email will be sent out to the medical applicant with a registration PIN. At this point, the patient must pay a $50 registration fee, though this may be waived if certain financial conditions are met.
Recreational cannabis is to be neither smoked nor eaten in a public space. Private residences and property remain the best place to consume for adults aged 21 and up. Question 4 does authorize the use of marijuana in establishments licensed for that purpose.
Medical patients may eat, but not smoke, marijuana products in public spaces.
While Massachusetts forbids dispensaries from publishing pricing data, information gathered through the grapevine indicates that an eighth of flower costs around $50 while an ounce can be as much as $350. A gram of concentrate, on average, costs between $50-$60. These costs are quite similar to other States with recently-legalized marijuana.
Medical patients are restricted by purchase limits to ten ounces every sixty day period, and patients are allowed to possess no more than 10 ounces at any time. The physician may recommend additional limits based on an individual’s treatment plan. Adults age 21 and up may purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana flower or up to five grams of marijuana concentrates.
Both adult-use and medical marijuana laws in Massachusetts allow for the limited at-home cultivation of marijuana. Medical patients must file for hardship cultivation, providing evidence of limited financial access or mobility complications in getting to a dispensary in order to be able to grow at home. If successful, the patient or their caregiver may cultivate limited plants to produce only enough for a 60 day supply.
Adults age 21 and up may grow up to six plants per individual with a twelve plant maximum in each residence. In either case, cultivation must be done in a manner that is out of sight, locked, and secured.
Massachusetts dispensary agents must be 21 or older and cannot have had a felony-level drug conviction in the United States. Initial registration fees are $500. Every year thereafter, a $500 license renewal fee is required.
Adults and medical patients are not protected against employer drug testing under Massachusetts law. Though it may be legal under state law, the employer is responsible for federal regulatory compliance, including drug-free workplace regulations.
Delivery of marijuana is legal in Massachusetts for adults and patients. Furthermore, municipalities cannot ban the transportation of marijuana on any public road.
In general, purchases made at dispensaries, for the time being, are primarily cash. You may use your debit card, though the transaction is tantamount to an ATM withdrawal.