Massachusetts Marijuana Laws

  1. Massachusetts Cannabis
  2. Massachusetts Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • Adult-use and medical marijuana are both legal in Massachusetts.

  • Recreational marijuana is legal for only Massachusett residents who are 21 years and above. Meanwhile, medical cannabis is for all patients that meet the qualifying conditions contained in the law. Qualified patients who are below 18 years can only possess or use medical cannabis with the consent of their legal guardians.

  • Possession of more than 1 ounce of recreational marijuana is a punishable violation in Massachusetts. Also, qualified patients must not possess more than 10 ounces – equivalent to a 60-day supply – of medical cannabis.

  • Marijuana cultivation limit in Massachusetts is six cannabis plants for both recreational and medical users.

  • Violating Massachusetts marijuana laws may lead to either misdemeanor or felony charges depending on factors such as the weight of cannabis found.

Is Marijuana Legal in Massachusetts?

Yes, marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The 2012 Act titled An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana legalized medical marijuana in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Per the Act, the Commonwealth permits the use of marijuana to treat certain debilitating medical conditions. In 2016, the recreational use of marijuana became legal through the Massachusetts Marijuana Legislative Initiative (Question Four). This led to the passage of the Massachusetts legislation titled, An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana. This Act legalized recreational marijuana in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Per the Act, individuals over the age of 21 may legally purchase, use, grow, gift, and transport limited quantities of marijuana.

Although marijuana is legal in the Commonwealth, certain caveats exist regarding its possession and use. Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Laws prohibits residents from:

  • Possessing, using, purchasing, or processing more than 1 ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of marijuana concentrates for recreational purposes

  • Possessing more than 10 ounces of marijuana on their private residence

  • Purchasing or transporting more than six marijuana plants, three of which must be seedlings

  • Cultivating more than 12 marijuana plants per residence. These marijuana plants must also be grown out of public view.

  • Transporting marijuana in a container that is not locked or sealed

  • Consuming marijuana in public

  • Giving marijuana to individuals under the age of 21

  • Transporting marijuana out of the Commonwealth

Per Massachusetts Medical Use Marijuana Laws, a patient with a qualifying medical condition, a physician's prescription, and a medical marijuana card is permitted to use marijuana to treat debilitating medical conditions. Some of the qualifying medical conditions are HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Parkinson's disease and chronic pain, or any other debilitating medical condition. However, patients under the age of 18 are required to obtain medical certifications from two Massachusetts-licensed physicians who must diagnose them with a life-limiting illness. They are also required to obtain parental or guardian consent to use marijuana to treat such conditions.

In Massachusetts, medical marijuana patients are legally allowed to:

  • Buy up to a 60 day supply or up to 10 ounces of usable marijuana in their homes

  • Possess six plants of marijuana flower.

Massachusetts Marijuana Laws in 2022

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts legalized marijuana through two ballot-driven legislative initiatives. These legislative initiatives are the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, which legalized medical marijuana and the Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Legislative Initiative which legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

The major Massachusetts marijuana laws have remained unchanged since the passage of an Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana. However, there are several bills currently being heard by the Massachusetts Legislature that seek to amend the Massachusetts marijuana laws. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Legislature has not passed or signed any of these bills into law.

The current regulations that govern the possession, cultivation, handling, and use of marijuana in the Commonwealth include:

M.G.L.c.94I Section 2

This law authorized the creation of the medical use marijuana program. Under the program, a qualifying patient with a debilitating medical condition may obtain a written or electronic certification from a certifying physician to purchase marijuana for medicinal purposes. It also authorized the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to issue registration cards to qualifying patients upon receipt of written certifications from healthcare professionals. These registration cards enable cardholders to purchase marijuana from any treatment center in the Commonwealth.

The section also ensures that a certifying healthcare professional is not penalized for advising or issuing a written certification to a qualifying patient about the risk and benefits of using marijuana to treat a life-limiting medical condition. It further ensures that both qualifying patients and their caregivers do not face prosecution, arrest, or civil penalties for possessing or using marijuana for medical purposes. The law also mandated the creation and registration of medical marijuana treatment centers. These treatment centers and their employees are legally permitted to acquire, possess, cultivate, process, transfer, transport, sell, distribute or dispense medical marijuana and supplies to qualifying patients. They also provide educational material for qualifying patients and caregivers on the benefits of using marijuana to treat certain life-limiting conditions.

The section also ensures that all marijuana treatment centers and their employees register with the Cannabis Control Commission. The commission is also expected to maintain a list of registered qualifying patients issued a medical marijuana card. This list is to be kept confidential.

M.G.L. c.94G Section 2

This law identifies the limitations to the use, distribution, and possession of marijuana. The section prohibits the operation of vehicles or machinery while under the influence of marijuana. It also prohibits the possession or transfer of marijuana, marijuana products, or accessories to an individual under the age of 21 knowingly or unknowingly. It further prevents an individual under the age of 21 from cultivating, processing, manufacturing, or selling marijuana, marijuana accessories, or marijuana concentrates.

The section also mandates that only licensed marijuana product manufacturers with licenses issued by the Cannabis Control Commission may manufacture marijuana products. It prohibits unlicensed marijuana establishments from manufacturing marijuana or hemp by any means other than alcohol with a flashpoint below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The section further establishes the authority and rights of both employers and property owners. It allows property owners to regulate or prohibit the sale of marijuana on their property. Similarly, it gives employers the authority to permit or disapprove of marijuana consumption in the workplace by its employees. It further establishes the authority of the local government in regulating the possession and consumption of marijuana in properties owned, leased, or occupied by the Commonwealth. It also prohibits the consumption of marijuana on school grounds within the Commonwealth. Additionally, it permits the addition of marijuana or marijuana products into food without being considered an adulterant.

Chapter 180 of the Acts of 2022

Signed into law on August 8, 2022, this bill will create a social equity trust fund that will be funded with 15% of the proceeds from the Marijuana Regulation Fund. The law will also prohibit cities and counties from charging marijuana businesses operating within their boundaries excessive rates. It also paves the way for social consumption locations by allowing municipalities to put a question on the ballot asking residents if they want them.

The new law will also simplify the process for individuals to expunge their criminal records for cannabis possession and distribution. Additionally, it will change the state tax code to enable marijuana dispensary owners to take advantage of some of the same tax write-off advantages as other businesses.

Timeline of Cannabis Law in Massachusetts

  • 1911: Massachusetts began the war on drugs by becoming the first US state to outlaw marijuana use for recreational purposes. However, residents with a doctor's prescription may buy hemp from licensed pharmacies at that time.

  • 2008: Residents voted in favor of the 2008 Massachusetts Ballot Question 2 to decriminalize low amounts of marijuana possession. After approval, the initiative became law in January 2009. The law reduced possession penalties for less than 1 ounce of weed from misdemeanor charges to a $100-fine.

  • 2012: Marijuana proponents in Massachusetts voted for and won the 2012 ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis in the state. Known as the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative or Question 3, the approved initiative allows eligible patients to buy a 60-day supply of cannabis.

  • 2016: Almost 54% of Massachusetts voters supported the 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure, known as Question 4 or Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, created the Cannabis Control Commission to regulate marijuana sales and taxes. However, marijuana sales did not start until 2018 due to a bill signed by the governor to defer the legalization date.

  • 2017: Massachusetts residents interested in the state’s recreational marijuana industry began applying for licenses from the Cannabis Control Commission.

  • 2018: Marijuana sales begin after several delays with the first licensed retail store opened to consumers.

  • 2020: Cannabis delivery began in Massachusetts as retail cannabis sales reached the $1billion mark.

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2022

Federal legalization of weed is still an ongoing process in 2022 as cannabis remains illegal according to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. In 2019, the US House of Representatives presented the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act and passed the same bill 2020. The purpose of the bill was to legalize adult-use cannabis but it was eventually ignored by the Senate. A year after, the federal house reps presented another MORE Act and passed it in 2022. Like the previous version, the MORE Act of 2021 will:

  • Replace cannabis with marijuana under federal laws.

  • Remove cannabis from illegal substances listed under the DEA Drug Scheduling system.

  • Eliminate cannabis-related federal offense penalties.

  • Erase past marijuana-related convictions.

  • Eliminate federal interference as other states legalize marijuana possession and cultivation.

  • Introduce a federal excise tax on marijuana sales.

  • Prevent unfair discrimination against non-citizens who possess marijuana.

In 2019, a prominent US Senator introduced a bill known as the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act to decriminalize cannabis. The purpose of the Senate Bill is to deschedule marijuana from the federal controlled substance, enforce marijuana advertising regulations to protect minors, and promote marijuana establishments.

While there are prospects that marijuana may be legal in the US soon, some states have already legalized adult-use cannabis. Low-THC cannabis or hemp (contains less than 0.3% THC) is already legal in the US through the 2018 Farm Bill. The US President has also helped increase the prospect of federal legalization by issuing a marijuana reform executive order in October 2022. The executive action will pardon persons convicted of simple marijuana possession and other states to carry out similar state pardons. President Biden also asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review how cannabis is scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.

Can I Use Cannabis?

It depends. Persons who are 21 years and older can use marijuana for either medical or recreational use in Massachusetts. However, adults and minors can use marijuana for medical purposes in the state. To use marijuana for medical purposes, minors must obtain approval from their parents or guardians and have certification from two certified healthcare providers.

Before Massachusetts legalized marijuana, the drug was regarded as a harmful substance. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Many Americans' attitudes toward cannabis shifted in the past, partly owing to the influx of Mexican immigrants to the United States during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. The Marihuana Tax Act 1937 was passed to make marijuana use illegal throughout the United States. All states progressively eased marijuana possession laws by the mid-1970s.

How the Legal Sale of Cannabis in Massachusetts Happens

The Cannabis Control Commission is the body responsible for regulating marijuana sales in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Per Massachusetts regulations, only licensed marijuana establishments and medical marijuana treatment centers are legally permitted to sell marijuana. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts operates a seed-to-sale tracking inventory system to track the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. This inventory system ensures that all marijuana sold in Massachusetts is grown in the Commonwealth.

Per Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Laws, recreational marijuana can only be sold to individuals over 21 years with a government-issued ID card. However, the Commonwealth's Medical Marijuana Laws permit the sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 18 with life-threatening medical conditions. Marijuana establishments or marijuana treatment centers must verify the validity of any ID card presented at the point of purchasing marijuana. All marijuana sales in the Commonwealth are cash-only transactions.

Registered marijuana establishments and marijuana treatment centers are permitted to sell various forms of marijuana products, including buds, raw pre-rolls, concentrates, vape products, and edibles. However, all sales must comply with the Commonwealth's regulations. Retailers can only sell 1 ounce of marijuana and up to 5 grams of concentrates per transaction. All retail marijuana products can only contain 5 milligrams of THC per serving, and not more than 20 servings can be sold in a single transaction.

The Cannabis Control Commission licenses medical marijuana treatment centers (MTC) to provide marijuana for qualifying patients. Generally, an MTC acquires, cultivates, processes, transports, sells, distributes, delivers, and dispenses marijuana, cannabis-containing products, related supplies, or educational materials to registered qualifying patients. Marijuana bought from the MTCs has no taxes imposed on them, and the license must be renewed annually. To operate an MTC, applicants are expected to pay an application fee of $3,500 and an annual licensing fee of $50,000.

Penalties for Marijuana-related Crimes in Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts imposes penalties on the illegal possession, use, and sale of marijuana.

What are Cannabis Possession Penalties in Massachusetts?

Per Massachusetts Laws, any adult 21 years and over in the Commonwealth can legally possess up to 1 ounce of Marijuana. A person caught with more marijuana than legally permitted may face marijuana possession charges.

Generally, possession of more than the legally allowed amount of marijuana in Massachusetts is a misdemeanor. First-time offenders are charged with a misdemeanor and are punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $500. Subsequent offenses attract stringent penalties of up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $2000.

Charges for violating Massachusetts marijuana possession laws are lenient if the offender is under 21 years. Such individuals found in possession of marijuana without a medical marijuana card may be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a civil penalty of not more than $100. They will also complete a compulsory drug awareness program. In addition to paying a fine of not more than $100 and completing a drug awareness program, an under-18 offender's parent or legal guardian is notified.

Possession with Intent to Distribute in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, only licensed marijuana establishments may sell marijuana. Individuals caught with marijuana beyond the legal limits are charged with possession with intent to distribute it. Penalties for these charges vary based on several factors, such as previous criminal records and the amount of marijuana involved.

Per Massachusetts Laws, first and second-time offenders found with less than 50 lbs of marijuana will be charged with a misdemeanor and may be sentenced to a maximum of 2.5 years in jail. A first-time offender will also pay a $5,000 fine, while a second-time offender risks a $10,000 fine.

Individuals caught in possession of any amount of marijuana over 50 lbs will be charged with a felony. All marijuana possession offenses carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, but the minimum mandatory prison sentence varies. Persons caught with between 50 to 100 lbs are incarcerated for at least 1 year and will pay up to a $10,000 fine. Similarly, a person caught carrying any amount of marijuana between 100 lbs and 2,000lbs will be incarcerated for a minimum of 2 years and pay a fine of $25,000. If the marijuana in a person's possession exceeds 2,000lbs but less than 10,000lbs, the defendant will be incarcerated for a minimum of 3.5years and will pay a fine of $50,000. Persons caught carrying over 10,000lbs of marijuana will face similar charges as violators of Massachusetts marijuana trafficking laws and will be incarcerated for a minimum of 8 years and will pay a fine of $200,000.

Cultivation of Marijuana in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, both medical and recreational marijuana can be cultivated at home. However, residents must comply with the strict limits set for both medical and recreational marijuana cultivation. Also, all marijuana cultivation must be away from public view and in a locked enclosed space. Individuals who violate these rules commit a civil offense and face a fine of $300, and forfeit the marijuana plants.

Marijuana Consumption in Massachusetts

Cannabis consumption, which includes vaping, smoking, or eating cannabis-infused foods, in the public is unlawful. According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 94G § 13(c), marijuana consumption in the premises where tobacco is prohibited may lead to a ticket fine not more than $100. Offenders consuming marijuana close to a school or playground may face severe punishments. Residents can use cannabis in private properties or in rented apartments provided that their landlords allow it.

Marijuana Paraphernalia in Massachusetts

It is legal for adults in Massachusetts to purchase and use marijuana Paraphernalia. However, selling to a minor is a felony and is punishable by a fine of between $1,000 to $5,000 and jail time between 3 to 5 years.

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Massachusetts

Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The state does not test for THC in blood or urine. Hence, failing a sobriety test will result in immediate arrest, 2-year probation, education training, license suspension for 90 to 365 days, and a $500 fine for first-time offenders. Subsequent offenses come with steeper penalties with up to 30 months incarceration, up to $50,000 in fines, and loss of license. Marijuana kept in a vehicle must be stored in a locked glove box or in the trunk of the vehicle as failure to do so will result in a $500 fine.

Confiscation of Assets in Massachusetts

Massachusetts civil asset forfeiture laws allow local law enforcers to confiscate assets suspected to be part of a major marijuana crime. In Massachusetts, they can hold that money indefinitely, even when criminal charges have been dismissed.

Additional Limitations

Massachusetts marijuana limitations for hash and concentrates is set to 5 grams due to their high THC levels. Hence, possessing more than the legal quantities permitted by the Commonwealth is an offense. The possession of more than 5 grams but less than 1 ounce of concentrate is a civil offense and would attract a fine of $100. However, possessing more than 1 ounce could lead to one year jail of time and a fine of $1,000.

Individuals caught manufacturing and distributing hash and concentrate without the required license commits a felony which is punishable by between 2.5 years to 5 years in jail and a $5,000 fine. If an individual uses a minor to manufacture or distribute hash and concentrate, the individual may be charged with a felony which is punishable by 5 to 15 years in jail and a $100,000 fine. Illegal hash manufacturers who sell or distribute to minors also commit a felony that is punishable by between 2 to 15 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Per Massachusetts recreational marijuana laws, adults 21 years and older may share limited quantities of marijuana products and marijuana plants with adults above the age of 21. Gifting marijuana must not be done in exchange for anything of value, either in cash, barter, or kind. However, gifting marijuana plants to individuals below the age of 21 is considered illegal distribution in the Commonwealth, and offenders can be charged with a felony. The crime is punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Defendants who are charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute within 300 feet of a school or 100 feet of a public park are charged with a felony and risk a minimum of 2 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Similarly, a defendant who induces a minor to commit any marijuana possession crime will be charged with a felony. The defendant will also be incarcerated for a minimum of 5 years and pay a fine of $100,000.

Possible Remedies for Violators of Massachusetts Marijuana Laws

Violating Massachusetts marijuana distribution laws often lead to different penalties, which is mostly dependent on the weight of cannabis. Nonetheless, first-time offenders can avoid these punishments if they qualify for Massachusetts drug diversion programs. According to MGL C.276A § 2, district courts in different Massachusetts cities and counties can set their pre-trial diversion programs for eligible offenders. Once completed, the court may dismiss the case and erase the offender’s criminal records. Other possible remedies for defendants of violating Massachusetts marijuana laws include providing evidence in court to get lesser sentences or get the case dismissed. Most defendants often argue that the search and seizure by the arresting officers was illegal. Some grounds for illegal search include:

  • Search carried out without a valid warrant.

  • Search without the defendant’s consent.

  • Arrested without carrying out proper search

  • Drugs allegedly found after the search were not in plain view.

What is Massachusetts Cannabis History?

Historically, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been very strict with marijuana possession and use. In 1911, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit marijuana possession and use in the United States. This was done as a result of increased public sentiment against the influx of Mexican migrants who brought their marijuana-smoking culture into the United States during the Mexican Revolution. Since then, marijuana has remained illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Before the eventual decriminalization of marijuana in 2008, individuals caught with marijuana could face up to 6 months in prison and a $500 fine. However, in 2008, Massachusetts voters voted for the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative, also known as Question 2, on the 2008 ballot. This ballot initiative was passed by 63% of the Commonwealth's voters. The initiative decriminalized the possession of marijuana by imposing only a $100 fine without the notification of the Commonwealth's criminal history board for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. However, in a case where the possessor is a minor, their parents will be notified. The minors will also have to complete a drug awareness program and complete 10 hours of community service.

In 2012, the Medical Use of Marijuana (Question 3) was approved by 63% of Commonwealth voters. Following this approval, an individual with a debilitating medical condition and a medical marijuana program card may use marijuana for medical purposes. The Department of Health and Social Services is tasked with the administration of the Massachusetts medical marijuana program. Question 3 also established non-profit marijuana dispensaries to provide marijuana to medical patients.

In 2016, through another ballot initiative, Massachusetts voters approved the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana Initiative (Question 4). The initiative passed with 54% of the votes. In a bid to develop a better regulatory framework, the Massachusetts Legislature voted to delay the implementation of the law. Finally, in July 2017, An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana was passed by the State's Legislature. This Act strengthened both the medical and recreational marijuana industry policy framework and created the Cannabis Control Commission to regulate marijuana policies in the Commonwealth.

In August 2017, the board of the Cannabis Control Commission was appointed. Shortly after, in March 2018, the Cannabis Control Commission issued final regulations on the use of medical and recreational marijuana. In April of 2018, the licensing application process started. Later in the same year, the first adult-use marijuana licenses were issued. In November 2018, the first 2 licensed marijuana dispensaries began operations in the state.

What are Restrictions on Cannabis in Massachusetts?

Although medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there are still several restrictions on the use of marijuana. For instance, there is a limit to the amount of marijuana that can be purchased or grown by an individual. Other marijuana restrictions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts include:

  1. Only adults 21 years and older with a government-issued ID card may purchase and carry recreational marijuana. However, individuals over the age of 18 with a medical marijuana card are permitted to purchase and carry medical marijuana.

  2. Massachusetts does not permit public consumption of marijuana.

  3. Consumption of marijuana on federal lands or properties in the Commonwealth is prohibited.

  4. Transportation of marijuana across the Commonwealth's borders is illegal.

  5. Property owners reserve the right to permit or ban the use of marijuana on their property.

  6. Cultivation of marijuana must be done out of public view in an enclosed or locked facility.

  7. Marijuana and marijuana-infused products must be kept in a closed or locked container.

  8. Gifting or selling marijuana to minors is illegal.

  9. Driving under the influence of marijuana is considered illegal.

  10. Marijuana consumption in designated non-smoking areas is illegal.

  11. Growing more than six marijuana plants for recreational use is illegal.

Massachusetts Marijuana Laws