On election day, Massachusetts voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state. Massachusetts will join Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washingon DC, and Washington State who had all previously legalized, along with California, Maine, and Nevada which just passed legalization in this election.
Massachusetts voters have historically supported marijuana laws reform efforts. Back in 2008, we voted to decriminalize possession of under 1oz in down to a civil violation and followed it up in 2012 with an initiative for allowing medical marijuana. So in spite of widespread institutional political opposition, it wasn’t a huge surprise that this passed.
As of December 15, it will be completely legal to have an ounce of dried cannabis on your person at any time, as well as 10 ounces in your home, as long as it is secured. You can have up to 5 grams of concentrated marijuana (marijuana THC oil in solid form, aka BHO, wax).
In addition, you will be allowed to grow up to 6 marijuana plants per person at your home, and 12 total per household. You can grow outside, but your plants must not be visible to the public. Gardening is going to get interesting this spring.
What is legal now (as of 12/15/16)?
- You can carry up to 1 ounce around on your person at any time.You can give up to an ounce to another adult over 21. Just in time for the holidays!
- You can have 10 ounces in a secure spot in your home.
- You can have 5 grams of marijuana “concentrate” at home, aka BHO (butane hash oil), shatter, wax and any cannabis oil derivatives.
- Edible marijuana goods (homemade) are basically legal to have if the volume of dried or concentrate marijuana in the edibles is within legal possession limits.
- You can grow up to 6 marijuana plants per person, and 12 per household.
- You can give up to an ounce to another adult over 21. Just in time for the holidays!
What isn’t legal?
- You can’t smoke in public.
- You can’t sell marijuana to anyone.
- You can’t buy it or possess it if you are under 21. (Penalty: $100 fine plus drug awareness program)
- You can’t transport “unsealed packages” in your car, unless they are secure in the glove box or truck. The penalty for an “open container” of weed is $500.
- You can’t drive while “high”, although proving impairment is always a legal challenge in an OUI drugs case.
When can I buy weed legally in Massachusetts?
It could be a while. The first licenses for retailers are supposed to be issued on January 1, 2018, but that could easily end up being delayed.
Colorado was able to open retail stores on a similar timeline of just over a year after it passed there. Washington State took an additional 6 months.
Towns have the ability to reject marijuana stores if they pass a municipal ban. The state statute just says you can’t have a marijuana retailer within 500 feet of a school. Many towns are already moving to do this, but otherwise there will be no city restrictions on where a retailer can be located, pending licensing approval by the cannabis board.
It took about 3 years for the first medical dispensary to open after the medical marijuana initiative passed, but hopefully the retail dispensary rollout won’t be that bogged down.
What will the penalties be for violating these provisions?
If you are growing more than 12 plants in a home, or have more than 5 grams of concentrate on your person, it’s not clear what the penalties for possession will be.
You can still be charged with intent to distribute for possession of large quantities of cannabis, on the assumption that you have that much for it to be sold. But it would still have to be proven in court.
Now that marijuana is legal, can I get my old conviction expunged or sealed?
Maybe. If you have a record for something that is no longer illegal, that is eligible for a record seal under Massachusetts law, through the Commissioner of Probation. Massachusetts doesn’t have an expungement procedure, but sealed records can solve almost all background check problems.
For example, if you were convicted of felony intent to distribute just because you had a few ounces in your home, that would no longer be a valid criminal charge.
Give us a call for help with sealing your marijuna conviction record in Massachusetts.
What else could happen?
The legislature can still delay implementation, particularly of the provisions to allow retail sales and how those licenses are ultimately issued. That seems likely, particularly in determining the regulatory apparatus of the Cannabis Control Board by next March, and the ultimate rollout and approval of retail marijuana shops, which were targeted to open as of January 2018.
Opposition among state politicians has been across the board, including Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, the Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh, and State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg. As Treasurer, Goldberg is tasked with setting up the Cannabis Control Commission. She is on record as saying she will do her job and support the will of the people, but that may include advocating for”tweaks” to the law to push out the due dates.
The home grow laws in particular are also quite controversial and unpopular among politicians, and could be changed by the legislature in the next session.
The legislature could pass a law specifying penalties for being a minor in possession of marijuana, similar to minor alcohol possession.