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The Legal Status of Cannabis in Massachusetts

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In Massachusetts, both recreational and medical cannabis has been legalized. Question 3, which is “An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana,” was passed by 63 percent of voters in 2012. It legalizes the use of cannabis for medical reasons and took effect from Jan 1, 2013. 35 medical marijuana dispensaries can be set up as per the mandate of the law with a state-run patient registry.

According to Question 3, doctors can recommend medical cannabis for the following conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • MS (multiple sclerosis)

Other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician

Rules defining debilitating include:

  • Causing weakness
  • Cachexia
  • Wasting syndrome
  • Intractable pain
  • Intractable nausea
  • Impairing ability or strength
  • Progressing to an extent such that a major activity of a patient or more is substantially limited.

The allowable amounts of cannabis are up to 10 oz. which is 280 g in a home and 1oz outside the home. Growing is allowed for up to six plants per person with a total of twelve plants for a household of two or more adults or with a commercial license.

Legalization of Recreational Marijuana

Massachusetts was the first state to criminalize cannabis in the United States. A Century later in 2016 voters finally elected to have it legalized.

In about 1911, Massachusetts became the first state to criminalize cannabis for recreational use prohibiting the selling of “Indian hemp” without prescription.


The Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative was passed via a ballot initiative to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in small amounts. This bill was voted in on November 4, 2008, and it provides for possession of less than 1 ounce (28 g) of marijuana to be punished by a $100 fine without an entry into the criminal history board held by the state. Minors had their parents notified, and they had to enroll in a drug awareness program as well as perform community service for 10 hours. Prior to decriminalization, the penalty was $500 and up to six months imprisonment.

Proponents of decriminalization argued that:

  • The amendment would maintain existing policies on trafficking, growing, and DUI but protect those caught from getting a tainted criminal record.
  • The state would be able to save around $130 million per year.
  • The conviction for small amounts of cannabis, 1 ounce (28 g) and below, has little to no impact on the use of drugs.

Opponents of decriminalization argued that it would:

  • Promote the usage of the drug while protecting dealers
  • Create hazardous workplaces
  • Increase violence
  • Increase car crashes

In January 2009, the law on decriminalization went into effect.

Legalization: A ballot initiative (Question 4) was passed by Massachusetts voters on November 8, 2016, making recreational cannabis legal, and on July 28, 2017, it was signed into effect.

On December 15, 2016, the Provisions for cultivation and home use went into effect. According to the passed initiative:

  • Individuals are allowed the possession of not exceeding 1 ounce (28 g) at a time.
  • When one is driving, the cannabis they have must not be openly visible and must be locked up.
  • Each household is allowed to grow up to six plants for one adult and twelve if the household has more than one adult. They should be concealed such that the cannabis plants are not be seen from the street.
  • Households are allowed to store not more than 10 ounces (280 g) of cannabis, or more if it harvested from their home crop.
  • Marijuana cultivators, depending on the type of license granted, are only permitted to sell their products to cannabis establishments such as dispensaries but not directly to customers.
  • It is illegal to smoke marijuana on public property including sidewalks and parks.
  • It is illegal to smoke while driving.
  • Unlicensed sales are illegal for the seller and not the buyer. This also includes barter trade.
  • One is permitted to give away for free their home-grown cannabis.

The legal sale of cannabis commenced in 2018. From November 20, 2018, to January 20, 2019, the sales of legal recreational marijuana and its products were approximately $24, granting the state tax revenue of about $4 million. By late January 2019, nine stores had been licensed for the sale of recreational marijuana increasing to 33 by the end of the year.

Retail sales were taxed 10.75% excise on the marijuana, general 6.25% as state sales tax, and an additional 3% for local option tax bringing the total tax to 17%–20%. The first cultivation-only license was granted by the state of Massachusetts on Jun 21, 2018.

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.