Cannabis is legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and its territories and adults aged 21 years and older are allowed to cultivate up to six plants for their personal use. However, the statutes legalizing cannabis commerce empowered the local authorities in the jurisdictions where the commercial cannabis establishments are to be located to approve their operations.
The Worcester County government was abolished in 1998, and its functions were absorbed by state agencies and local municipal authorities. As such, the local municipal authority decides whether to allow a marijuana cultivator establishment to operate in a particular location in Worcester County. For example, the City of Worcester approves the operation of marijuana establishments in its jurisdiction, as does the City of Fitchburg. It would be legal to apply for a license to operate a marijuana cultivator establishment in these cities. In contrast, the Town of Auburn prohibits recreational marijuana establishments. Therefore, operating a marijuana cultivator establishment there would be illegal. The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) publishes a Municipal Zoning Tracker that identifies the adult-use marijuana bylaws of all 351 municipalities in Massachusetts.
The manufacture of cannabis products in Massachusetts is regulated by Chapters 94G and 94I of Massachusetts General Laws. Consequently, it is legal to manufacture cannabis products in Worcester County, provided the local authority in the jurisdiction of operation permits cannabis business establishments. Local municipal authorities in Worcester County determine if it is legal to manufacture cannabis products in their jurisdictions. In cities like Fitchburg and Worcester that allow marijuana establishments, it would be legal to operate marijuana product manufacturer establishments. Towns like Auburn and Westborough do not permit marijuana establishments in their jurisdictions and as such, it would be illegal to operate a marijuana product manufacturer establishment in these locations in Worcester County.
Massachusetts marijuana laws make it legal to retail cannabis and cannabis products in the state. However, this only applies in municipalities. Local authorities in the municipalities in Worcester County are authorized by marijuana statutes to permit or deny marijuana retail stores in their jurisdictions. It is legal to retail cannabis in cities that authorize the operations of marijuana establishments in their jurisdictions, such as Fitchburg and Worcester. The Marijuana retail establishment must be duly licensed by the Cannabis Control Commission as well as permitted by the local municipal authorities. In towns like Auburn and Westborough that opted out of approving marijuana establishments in their jurisdictions, it is illegal to retail recreational cannabis.
The marijuana laws in Massachusetts legalize the delivery of cannabis and cannabis products to locations in the state. But, while the statute makes it legal to deliver cannabis and cannabis products to locations in Worcester County, the local authorities in the delivery destinations determine if the statute is applicable. Marijuana statutes in Massachusetts allow local authorities to determine if cannabis business establishments can operate in their jurisdictions or not. This means that cannabis deliveries can only be made to locations where local authorities permit retail marijuana establishments or authorize marijuana deliveries.
Intending buyers can only receive deliveries from licensed retail or medical marijuana stores with which they are registered and all delivery orders must be placed online. Adults in towns, such as Auburn and Westborough, that do not permit marijuana establishments cannot have cannabis delivered to them, even from locations where marijuana delivery is legal. However, eligible persons in cities, like Worcester and Fitchburg, that permit marijuana establishments can receive cannabis deliveries to their residences.
The Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Program assigns registration cards to qualifying patients and caregivers, to identify them as participants of the Program. This enables a cardholder to possess, purchase, or use marijuana for medical reasons in any location in Massachusetts, including Worcester County. Patients must be at least 18 years old and legal residents of Massachusetts to be eligible to apply for registration with the Program. Personal caregivers are assigned to patients, that are minors or incapable of procuring medical marijuana by themselves because of an ailment or disability, by their healthcare providers. Typically, the healthcare provider will assign one or both parents as the caregiver for a minor patient. Patients with disabilities are allowed to choose their caregivers, but healthcare providers may also do the assignments if unsatisfied with the choices. A caregiver is authorized to purchase, possess, and administer medical marijuana on behalf of the patient. A personal caregiver must be at least 21 years old and a resident of Massachusetts.
To be eligible to qualify for the medical marijuana program, the patient must be diagnosed with one of the qualifying health conditions by a certifying healthcare provider. A Certifying Healthcare Provider is any duly registered medical practitioner in the state that has been approved by the Program to recommend marijuana for medical use. The qualifying conditions are:
A certifying health care provider is also authorized to recommend the use of medical marijuana for another debilitating health condition not listed above.
New patient registrations for the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Program can be completed online using the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) medical marijuana portal. Residents who do not have internet access may use the Medical Marijuana Patient Registration form to submit their applications. Applicants completing new patient registrations are required to provide copies of the following:
Patients who require caregivers' aid must have their assigned caregivers complete the relevant sections of the registration forms and provide copies of their documents. The CCC does not charge a fee for registration in the Medical Marijuana Program. Persons who use the paper registration form should submit their applications and other documents to:
Cannabis Control Commission
Medical Use of Marijuana Program
2, Washington Square
Worcester, MA 01604
Medical marijuana patient registration cards enable the cardholders to possess up to a 60-day supply (up to 10 ounces) of marijuana for medical use. Patients and caregivers approved for the Program can download their temporary registration cards online for immediate use. These temporary cards enable the holders to purchase and possess medical marijuana but are only valid for up to 14 days. The CCC will dispatch the permanent patient registration cards to approved patients or caregivers within 7 - 14 business days. Permanent medical marijuana patient registration cards are valid for one year and must be renewed annually for patients to retain their statutory rights. There is no fee to renew a medical marijuana patient registration card in Worcester County.
The abolishment of the Worcester County government in 1999 caused the typical county government duties to be assumed by local municipal authorities and state agencies. As such, the collation of the revenue and finances of the various municipalities are handled independently by the local municipal authorities.
All municipalities in Worcester County are allowed to charge a local tax on marijuana sales in their jurisdictions. In the City of Fitchburg, local ordinances include a 3% local sales tax on marijuana sales. This is also the case in the regulations for the City of Worcester. The additional income from the taxation of legal marijuana business establishments will see an increase in the revenues of the applicable municipalities in Worcester County. Evidently, it can be concluded that marijuana taxation contributes to the economies of municipalities in Worcester County.
Due to the abolishment of the Worcester County government in 1999, there are no agencies that compile county-wide crime data. Each municipality in Worcester County handles its law enforcement requirements and retains the records and statistics of crime rates in its jurisdictions.
However, when considering the crime rates of the municipalities in Worcester County, it can be surmised that there has been a drop in marijuana-related arrests in the county. An analysis of the crime rate records from the Fitchburg Police Department over a five-year period (2016 - 2020) shows an almost zero percent rate of marijuana-related arrests. Over this five-year period, there have been a total of two marijuana-related arrests; one for possession in 2020 and one for sales in 2016. In 2007, just prior to the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, marijuana-related arrests by the Fitchburg P.D. totaled 28. A comparison of these figures shows a drastic drop (-100%) in marijuana-related arrests over the ensuing period (2007 - 2020). Arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUIs) over the same period were less consistent. DUI arrests increased to 50 (+127%) in 2017 from 22 in 2016 but subsequently dropped and reached their lowest levels in 2020, with only ten arrests.