It is legal to cultivate cannabis in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, the Act that legalized the cultivation of cannabis in the state also empowered local authorities to decide whether to permit cannabis cultivation in their jurisdictions. Since the dissolution of its county government in 1999, Essex County has been a totally incorporated county, meaning all the county territory is in the jurisdiction of a town or a city. All the municipality authorities in the county are allowed to establish their own regulations regarding the conduct of marijuana business establishments, including cultivation centers.
As with other cannabis business establishments, it is legal to operate a cannabis manufacturing establishment in territories in Massachusetts, including Essex County. However, the operation of a marijuana manufacturing establishment in municipalities in Essex County is dependent on the local statutes and ordinances. Essex County, like several others in Massachusetts, does not have a county government and local municipal authorities dictate local laws and ordinances. If the local municipal authority permits the manufacture of cannabis and cannabis products in its jurisdiction, then interested persons can apply for licenses to manufacture cannabis in that location. If the local authority does not permit cannabis manufacturing, then it is illegal to manufacture cannabis in their jurisdiction.
Essex County has no county authority and as such, there are no laws on the retail of cannabis in the county. The retail of cannabis is legalized under certain conditions by marijuana statutes in Massachusetts; however, these laws allow local municipal authorities to decide whether to allow cannabis commerce within their jurisdictions. Local authorities in the towns and cities in Essex County are charged with authorizing the retail of cannabis and cannabis products in their locations. It is illegal to retail cannabis or cannabis products in municipalities in Essex County where the local authorities have outlawed cannabis commerce.
Massachusetts marijuana statutes make it legal for licensed entities to deliver cannabis and cannabis products to locations in the state. However, local authorities in the municipality where the delivery is being made must permit retail marijuana establishments or authorize marijuana deliveries within its jurisdiction. There are no county-wide regulations on marijuana since there has been no county government since 1999. Customers can only make marijuana delivery orders online and the orders must be from retail stores or medical marijuana dispensaries they have pre-registered.
A medical marijuana card is assigned to a Registered Qualifying Patient or a Personal Caregiver to identify the person as a participant in the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Program. It enables the cardholder to legally purchase, possess, or use medical marijuana and medical marijuana products in Essex County. To be eligible to register with the Program, the patient must be 18 years or older and a legal resident of Massachusetts. The patient must also have been diagnosed with any of the qualifying health conditions by a certifying health care provider. Certifying health care providers are medical practitioners registered with the Medical Marijuana Program and approved to provide recommendations for the medical use of marijuana. The qualifying health conditions are:
A certifying health care provider can also issue a recommendation for the use of medical marijuana for another debilitating condition not listed above.
For minor patients and patients incapable of obtaining medical marijuana for themselves, personal caregivers may be assigned by their certifying health care providers. Personal caregivers must be at least 21 years old and residents of Massachusetts.
Once the certifying health care provider certifies a patient, the Program will send an email with the patient’s PIN and instructions on completing the registration online. All new patient registrations are completed online using the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) medical marijuana portal. To complete registration as a new patient, the applicant is required to provide copies of the following documents:
If applicable, personal caregivers are also required to complete their sections in patient registration forms online and provide copies of the documents listed above. Applicants that do not have access to internet services may submit their registration applications using the Medical Marijuana Patient Registration Form. There is no fee to register as a patient with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Submit your completed application and other documents to:
Cannabis Control Commission
Medical Use of Marijuana Program
2, Washington Square
Worcester, MA 01604
If the patient’s registration is approved, a temporary card will be available immediately for download online and this card will be valid for up to 14 days. The official patient registration card will be sent to the card owner within 7 - 14 business days. A medical marijuana card enables the cardholder to possess up to a 60-day supply (10 ounces) of marijuana for medical use. Medical marijuana cards must be renewed annually for the cardholders to retain their statutory rights. There is no fee to renew medical marijuana registration cards in Essex County.
Essex County government was abolished in 1999 and its functions were assumed either by state agencies or by the local municipal authorities. Without a county government, the revenue and finances of all the municipalities are handled independently by the local municipal authorities. Consequently, there are no official county records or statistics that may indicate the impact the legalization of cannabis has had on the economy of Essex County.
The City of Salem adopted a 3% local excise tax on the retail sales of cannabis. Also, cannabis business establishments are required to pay taxes on any properties they inhabit. Based on all this added revenue that accrues from marijuana business establishments, it can be surmised that cannabis legalization has positively impacted the economy of municipalities in Essex County.
There are no official Essex County records on crime rates in the county because there has been no official government in the county since 1999. Law enforcement in Essex County is handled by the individual police departments of the municipalities in the county. Consequently, there are no official county records or statistics that can show the effects the legalization of cannabis had on crime rates in Essex County.
An analysis of the crime rates in Salem City in Essex County over a 5 year period (2016 - 2020) shows a general decline in marijuana-related arrests. Marijuana-related arrests fell by 100% between 2016 and 2017, with the City also recording no arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2018. There was a 300% increase in arrests in 2019, but again marijuana-related arrests fell by 100% the following year (2020). Possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in 2008, but in 2007 there were 18 marijuana-related arrests in Salem reported by the Salem Police Department. These figures have dropped steadily and eventually reached nil in 2020, indicating the decriminalization and eventual legalization of marijuana has drastically reduced the marijuana-related crime rates in the state.