Can You Grow Weed in Massachusetts?

“The Garden” Isn’t Just Where the Celtics and Bruins Play: Laws on Growing Weed at Home in Massachusetts
Massachusetts 240315 RX Dco Website Poster
March 19, 2024 • 6 Min Read
By Alison Lucek
Understanding Cannabis Legislation in the Commonwealth

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a place known for its colonial landmarks and reputation for progressive politics, perhaps it is no surprise that marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use.

As the celebrated landing place of the Mayflower which carried the Pilgrims from England to establish the first permanent New England colony in 1620 Plymouth, MA is often recognized with another first in the cannabis space—joining the ranks of California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, and Illinois as the most cannabis-friendly states in the Union!

Yes, weed is legal (with restrictions) in the historic state of Massachusetts and as of March 13, 2024, past or future misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions may even be pardoned! That said, this big 420 friendly Northeastern stronghold is not without its laws and restrictions governing the use, sale, possession, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis for both medical and adult-use/recreational purposes.

State of Firsts: The History of Cannabis Criminalization & Legalization in MA

Ironically, Massachusetts, considered to be among the top six most cannabis-friendly states in the country, can also be credited with beginning the War on Drugs. In 1911, because of growing public sentiment against the influx of Mexican migrant populations during the Mexican Revolution, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit marijuana possession and use, banning anyone but residents with a doctor’s prescription to buy hemp from licensed pharmacies.

Nearly 100 years after pioneering marijuana prohibition in the United States, Massachusetts began its legal reform. In 2008, with a stunning 63% majority, voters passed the “Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative” (also known as Question 2), to decriminalize adult marijuana possession of under 1 ounce from a misdemeanor charge to a $100 fine that does not notify the Commonwealth’s criminal history board.

The power of the people spoke again four years later in 2012 with another 63% vote in favor of Question 3, the “Medical Use Marijuana” measure legalizing medical cannabis in the state. Question 3 tasked the Department of Health and Social Services with administering medical marijuana program cards for individuals with debilitating medical conditions to access medical marijuana and established non-profit dispensaries to provide eligible patients with up to 10 ounces, equivalent to a 60-day supply.

Then in November 2016, the Cannabis Control Commision (CCC) was created following the 54% approval vote on Question 4, the “Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative” which led to the State Legislature’s passage of “An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana” the following year legalizing the purchase, use, grow gift and transport of limited quantities of marijuana for adults 21 and over, established a regulated cannabis market, and eliminated penalties for limited adult-use possession and cultivation. Although the CCC was formed in 2016 to regulate marijuana sales and taxes, the board was not appointed until 2017 when the licensing applications process began.

Finally after many legislative delays, in 2018 the first legalized consumer sales of recreational marijuana began in Massachusetts. In November 2018 the first two licensed adult-use marijuana dispensaries began operations in the state and by 2020, with adult-use retail cannabis sales reaching $1 billion, Massachusetts began cannabis delivery.

In the first major reform legislation since the state established a regulated adult-use cannabis market, “An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry” took effect in 2022 to address issues of social equality in the cannabis market. Among its many provisions, the statute has created a state-regulated Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund (CSETF) which provides financial support to social equity applicants seeking to enter the industry, adds restrictive terms and regulatory review of the contentious Host Community Agreements (HCAs) which had previously favored larger, well-financed operators, and a tax incentive for communities to site social equity retail businesses in their municipalities to provide additional opportunities for those disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs.

And now in 2024, with a nation-leading effort to pardon misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions, Massachusetts Governor Maura T. Healey is pushing another first for The Old Colony State. In the most comprehensive action by a Governor following President Biden’s call for marijuana pardons in the states, if approved, the Governor’s pardon would apply to all eligible Massachusetts state court misdemeanor convictions before March 13, 2024, for adult possession of marijuana (sometimes referred to as possession of a “Class D substance”). For the potentially hundreds of thousands of people impacted by the measure, most would not need to take any further action to have their criminal records updated.

What Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Laws Mean for Bay Staters
Persons 21 and over in The Bay State can buy, possess, use, and grow recreational cannabis for either medical or recreational purposes, but each sanctioned use is subject to marijuana laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Which Citizens of the Commonwealth Can Sell, Who Can Buy, & How Much Can One Carry?
As regulated by the Cannabis Control Commision (CCC), only licensed marijuana establishments and medical marijuana treatment centers are legally permitted to sell weed in its various forms including bud, pre-rolls, concentrates, vape products, and edibles in the state of Massachusetts. With a seed-to-sale inventory tracking system that monitors the cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products, the CCC ensures that all marijuana sold in the state is also grown in the Commonwealth.

While all the weed sold in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must be grown in-state, the same “residency” is not required of consumers. If you provide a valid government-issued ID and have cash or a debit card on hand since all marijuana sales in the Commonwealth are cash-only transactions, you do not have to be a state resident to purchase cannabis in Massachusetts. Surprisingly though, Massachusetts is not among the list of states that accept out-of-state medical cards.

For adults 21+ it is legal to purchase and carry up to one ounce of flower, up to five grams of concentrate, and possess up to 10 ounces in your home in MA, however public cannabis use in any form including smoking, vaping, or ingesting is prohibited. Likewise, as in most states which have legalized marijuana, gifting or selling to minors, driving under the influence, and transportation across state lines by any means—car, truck, boat, train, or plane—is illegal.

The Garden” Isn’t Just Where the Celtics and Bruins Play:
Laws on Growing Weed at Home in Massachusetts
Thumbs up for green thumbs in The Colony State! Yes, with restrictions, growing pot is legal in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts law allows adult residents aged 21 years or older to grow up to six plants for recreational use at home and if more than one adult is residing in the home, a maximum of 12 plants may be cultivated. To grow pot legally at home in MA, home grows must be secured in a locked, enclosed location that is shielded from public view which means: no, do not grow pot outside in Massachusetts and be sure only to harvest in cycles to ensure that you have the proper number of flowering plants at one time.

How Do the Marijuana Laws in Mass Apply to Medical Use?
With written recommendation from a certified healthcare provider, Massachusetts residents 18 years or older with a qualifying medical condition are eligible to become a patient of the Massachusetts Medical Use Marijuana Program. Minors must obtain approval from parents or guardians and certification from not one, but two certified healthcare providers to access marijuana for medical purposes.

Application to the program can be completed online through the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) and there is no longer a fee to register. As a Registered Qualifying Patient of the Medical Use of Marijuana Program in Massachusetts, individuals may possess what is considered a 60-day supply of 10 ounces at one time and are permitted to grow this same amount of marijuana at home to yield a 60-day supply for personal medical use.

The Good “Green Lines” Are Not to Be Crossed:
Enforcing Massachusetts Marijuana Laws

The great state of Massachusetts is one of the most cannabis-friendly in the nation, so do it right as there are still unfavorable consequences for blazing past the rules!

Generally, marijuana possession in quantities that exceed the state’s legal limits of one ounce for adult-use individuals are considered misdemeanor offenses in Massachusetts. While the Governor is actively pursuing reforms, at present first-time offenders can receive up to six months in prison and up to $500 fine. Subsequent offenses are punishable with up to 2 years and $2000 in fines.

If possession exceeds 50 lbs. of marijuana, that charge becomes a felony with longer incarceration times and financial penalties that graduate depending upon the amount seized. Possession with the intent to distribute within 300 feet of a school or 100 feet of a public park is also a felony that risks a minimum of 2 years prison time and a $10,000 fine.

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