State of Cannabis: Massachusetts


This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This week we cover Massachusetts.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16. Pennsylvania; 17. Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.


Recreational Marijuana. On November 8, Massachusetts’s voters approved the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. This means that on December 15, possessing, using, and purchasing an ounce or less of marijuana will be legal for adults 21 and older. However, there will be no legal way to purchase recreational marijuana until January 1, 2018.

Once the legal market is operational, the Cannabis Control Commission will oversee the recreational market. The Act also creates the Cannabis Advisory Board to study and make recommendations on regulating cannabis. Massachusetts will issue licenses for the testing, cultivation, product manufacturing, and retail sale of cannabis. In public, persons over 21 can possess up to one ounce of marijuana or up to five grams of marijuana concentrate. Adults can possess up to ten ounces in their home. An individual can also grow up to six plants in their home. But, a single household cannot have more than 12 plants total. For example, three adults living in one residence can only grow 12 plants even though each individual is permitted to grow 6 plants. Each household caps the number of plants at 12.

Like many other cannabis legalization efforts, Massachusetts marijuana will be subject to an excise tax. The Act imposes a 3.75% tax on marijuana products. This is in addition to the state’s 6.25% sales tax. The Act also allows local governments to impose an additional 2% tax on cannabis and keep the revenue. All in all, this leads to a likely tax of 12% for Massachusetts marijuana. This is much lower than the cannabis taxes in other states like Colorado and Washington, which currently have the two longest-running recreational marijuana markets.

Medical marijuana. In 2012, Massachusetts became the 18th State to legalize medical marijuana. Patients with the following qualifying conditions may access medical cannabis after obtaining authorization from their qualified healthcare provider:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • AIDS
  • Hepatitis C
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s certifying physician

After showing that he or she suffers from one of the enumerated conditions, a patient must register with the Massachusetts Department of Health as a cannabis patient. Cannabis patients then obtain a card they must show to obtain cannabis from a dispensary. Massachusetts has already licensed several cannabis dispensaries and a current list of those dispensaries can be found here.

Massachusetts medical cannabis patients may grow their own cannabis, but the process to do so is complicated and not available to all patients. Cannabis patients may only cultivate their own marijuana after showing their access to a dispensary is limited by at least one of the following three reasons:

  • Financial hardship
  • Lack of transportation
  • No cannabis dispensary within a reasonable distance

If granted the right to grow their own cannabis, a medical cannabis patient can grow a two-month supply of cannabis.

Bottomline. Even before legalizing recreational cannabis, Massachusetts had favorable marijuana laws. The state decriminalized marijuana in 2008 when the modern legalization movement was only in its infancy and it has been home to a thriving medical cannabis program since 2012. Now, along with Maine, Massachusetts has become the first East Coast state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. For all of these reasons, we rank Massachusetts at number six among the states for its treatment of cannabis.



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