Photo: Brian Klonoski / Planet Experts
Seeing that it was the birthplace of the American Revolution and all — not to mention the first state to pass sweeping healthcare reform and allow same-sex marriage — it’s no surprise that Massachusetts is pioneering something as progressive as marijuana legalization not just in New England, but the entire eastern U.S.
With the passage of Question 4 on Election Day, Massachusetts became one of only two states east of the Rocky Mountains to legalize the recreational use of cannabis (the other is Maine). Weed is now wicked legal from The Cape to the Berkshires and everywhere in between. So go ahead and enjoy some frosty trichomes with your daily dose of Dunks.
But before you roll one up, have a smoke and celebrate your newly minted right to get baked in the Bay State, I recommend perusing the guide below. Yeah, weed is legal, but there are plenty of rules, and you ought to know them.
So Weed Is Legal… Right Now?
Good on you for double checking. YES, the personal possession, use and cultivation of weed are legal in Massachusetts. They have been since December 15, 2016.
That super bowl you packed for the Super Bowl? Totally within your rights as a citizen of The Commonwealth (or even just a visitor). There are, however, significant regulations governing your use and possession of refer. Let’s get into them:
- You have to be at least 21-years-old to use or possess marijuana.
- You can possess up to an ounce of bud in public — but you can’t smoke or consume it.
- Of that ounce, no more than five grams can be in the form of marijuana concentrate.
- You can’t light up in cars, public places or on college campuses — at least not legally.
- In your home, you can possess up to a whopping 10 ounces of Mary Jane.
- However, any weed beyond the first ounce must be locked up.
- Your abode (or your friends’) is pretty much the only place you can toke within the confines of the law.
- You can gift a lucky someone an ounce of ganja, provided you’re both at least 21 — but why would you want to do that?
Pretty standard, except for the insane in-home possession limit of 10 ounces, which doesn’t even include the bud you can legally grow at home. The only other state so generous is Oregon, which allows up to nine ounces in a private dwelling, eight of which must be home-grown. Maine permits two-and-a-half ounces plus the yield of six plants. In every other state, your stash is limited to a piddly ounce of pot, plus, in some cases, whatever you legally cultivate on your own.
What About Growing?
Have a green thumb, do you? You’re in luck. Question 4 has you covered, provided you comply with the following stipulations:
- You have to be at least 21-years-old to cultivate marijuana.
- You can grow up to six marijuana plants.
- You can have no more than 12 marijuana plants in your home, but still only six per person, regardless of if two or two hundred people live there.
- Weed cultivated within your home does not count against your ten-ounce limit. For real.
One more thing you should know: Your old-school, Jeff-Sessions-lovin’ landlord who is convinced that only bad people smoke marijuana can legally prohibit you or any other tenant from growing on his or her property. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when your walk-in-closet turned grow operation gets shut down.
What Else Can’t I Do?
It’s a good thing you asked, because in addition to cementing your right to consume cannabis in Massachusetts, Question 4 also makes a whole bunch of stuff illegal. Don’t do any of this:
- Drive while high.
- Keep opened packages or containers of weed anywhere in your car, except the trunk or a locked glove box.
- Smoke in public.
- Grow weed where it can be seen from a public place.
- Sell or give weed to anyone under 21.
- Use or possess weed at a public or private school, or a correctional facility.
Seriously, stay away from all that naughty business. It gives honest-to-goodness tokers a bad rap and ruins things for everyone. Question 4 also outlaws the following:
- Selling marijuana without a retail license.
- Manufacturing marijuana without a license.
- Manufacturing marijuana under improper conditions.
- Preventing people or agencies from regulating all aspects of the recreational marijuana industry.
- Discriminating against patients who use marijuana by denying them medical procedures, like organ transplants.
- Using marijuana use by parents to deny parental rights, like custody.
Additionally, Question 4 gives cities and towns the power to pass ordinances pertaining to different aspects of the recreational marijuana industry. However, certain ordinances banning or limiting pot shops would have to be OK’d by a citizen referendum.
Quite frankly, this all seems pretty reasonable.
Is My Weed Gonna Be Taxed?
Yep… this is Taxachusetts, after all. However, you might be surprised to learn that compared to other states, your weed is going to be taxed at a relatively low rate. Here’s the breakdown:
- The maximum tax on marijuana sales will be 12 percent.
- The first 6.25 percent is the standard state sales tax.
- The next 3.75 percent is a special excise tax on weed.
- Cities and towns have the option of levying up to another 2 percent in taxes, brining the total to 12 percent.
- The money will go into a Marijuana Regulation Fund, which will be used to cover the cost of implementing Question 4.
- Any leftover money will likely end up in Massachusett’s General Fund.
- Sales are expected to top $100 million by the third year of use.
Compared to Washington, which has an effective tax rate of 37 percent, and Oregon, which taxes its weed at 28 percent, Massachusetts is getting off easy. Only Maine, which will levy a flat 10% tax on marijuana sales, has a lower rate.
Are Lawmakers OK With Legal Weed in Massachusetts?
Even as they continue to insist that they’ll implement the will of the people, state lawmakers are launching a legislative counter-offensive aimed at delaying and amending Question 4.
In late December, the state legislature voted to delay retail sales of marijuana by six months. Pot shops — originally on track to open on January 1, 2018 — will now have to wait until at least July 1, 2018, to open their doors to throngs of tokers eager to get their hands on some legally-purchased herb. The legislation rolled back all deadlines associated with the marijuana industry by six months, including the formation of a Cannabis Control Commission and the licensing of cannabis shops.
“This short delay will allow the necessary time for the legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law,” Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D) said.
And improving it they are, at least from their point of view. Lawmakers have introduced a flurry of legislation — dozens of bills — aimed at making major changes to the version of Question 4 approved by citizens. Here’s the breakdown:
- Remember that insane, 10-ounce, in-home possession limit? Legislators want to slash it all the way down to two ounces.
- Same thing with growing. Lawmakers want to decrease the current limit of 12 plants per household down to six plants.
- In addition to the six-month delay already passed, new legislation seeks to add another two-year delay to the manufacture and sale of edibles and concentrates.
- Further changes to the law would allow municipalities to ban pot shops without a referendum, which is currently required.
- The Cannabis Control Commission would expand from three to five members.
- Drivers suspected of driving stoned would be subject to a field sobriety test; and the state would look into establishing a THC threshold similar to blood alcohol content for drunk driving.
- The 3.75 percent excise tax would likely increase — though by how much is uncertain. Lawmakers want to study the matter further. #Taxachusetts
To be clear, legal weed in Massachusetts is a thing and will continue to be. Lawmakers are just grappling with the huge burden of implementing and overseeing the law — they’re not trying to overturn it. We’ll give State Rep. Hannah Kane (R), who introduced the bills, the last word.
“I do not have a philosophical concern with legalization,” she said. “What I’ve attempted to do here is to ensure that we’ve taken into consideration some of the public health, public safety and local control concerns that we had when talking to people about the ballot question.”
So Where Can I get Legal Weed?
The only place you can legally buy weed in Massachusetts is at one of the state’s nine registered medical marijuana dispensaries — but only if you’re part of the Bay State’s medical marijuana program. Otherwise, you’re SOL.
I suppose you could cajole a friend overburdened with weed into gifting you a nug or two, but you can’t legally purchase bud from that person or anyone else. It’s a smoke-’em-if-you-got-’em type of a situation for the time being.
When Do Those Pot Shops Open Again?
I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s going to be almost another year-and-a-half until you can stroll into a retail establishment and buy weed on the up-and-up. For the time being, July 1, 2018, looks to be that glorious day. The sale of edibles and concentrates could be delayed an additional two years. You might have to make due without those hash cookies and weed gummies until the summer of 2020 — but you could always become a master baker and confectioner and whip some ganja-laced goodies up for yourself.
Does Question 4 Affect Medical Marijuana?
Nope. The Recreational and medical-marijuana industries are separate from one another, though existing medical-marijuana dispensaries will get the first crack at licenses to sell recreational weed. But as far as the regulations go, Question 4 changes nothing for patients in Massachusetts.