Answers to Your Questions About Marijuana in Massachusetts

Residents of the Commonwealth rejoice, Massachusetts has officially legalized recreational marijuana! After voting to pass Question 4 back on November 8, cannabis is now legal to consume, purchase, grow, and possess — so long as you are over the age of 21. So what does that mean for you as a Massachusetts resident? Sometimes these laws can be confusing, but have no fear; we’ve compiled all of your questions and created this handy guide to help you navigate your freshly trimmed legislature.

As of midnight on Thursday, Massachusetts’ new marijuana laws have taken effect, but the state is still in somewhat of a legal gray area like many other legalized states. This uncertainty is a result of the fact that legal cannabis retail shops most likely won’t be open for over a year, with optimistic projections targeting January of 2018. This means that while it is technically legal to buy marijuana now, it is still illegal to sell it outside of the existing medical marijuana market.

So, how can one legally obtain marijuana in Massachusetts?

“People who want to use marijuana are going to have to get it from the same sources they were getting it from before Dec. 15,” said Jim Borghesani, one of the leaders of the Question 4 campaign. “The gray zone is not ideal, but there’s really no other way around it.”

This year of uncertainty was worked into the legislature intentionally, believe it or not. The extra year before retail shops open gives state officials some lead time to figure out how they will oversee and regulate the state’s new industry. Legalized states like Colorado and Washington also went through a similar “gap year” in between the passing of their respective legalization measures and the true opening of the marketplace.

Question 4 spelled out that an appointed board similar to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission would handle oversight and regulation. Though the Cannabis Control Commission has yet to be appointed, some things have already been made clear for anyone hoping to open a marijuana business. Lab testing will be required on all retail marijuana products, and producers must adhere to strict packaging and labeling standards. If the Cannabis Control Commission should fail to implement widespread regulations by January 1, 2018, any existing medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts would be allowed to grow, produce, and sell cannabis products to customers over the age of 21. Existing medical dispensaries will also have the first shot at retail licenses, whereas prospective business owners with no experience in the industry would be entered into a lottery license opportunity.

Here is a breakdown of the new laws in Massachusetts as of today, December 15, 2016.


  • Adults 21 and over may possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their home, or ten ounces inside the residence.
  • Adults 21 and over may grow up to six cannabis plants in their home for personal use. If more than one adult over 21 resides in the home, up to twelve plants may be legally cultivated. If growing in the home, you must utilize some sort of locking mechanism or security system to keep minors out of reach. Plants that are grown in the home cannot be visible from the street or any other public space.
  • As far as distributing marijuana, up to an ounce may be given away between adults, though not sold.
  • Residents of the Commonwealth can now legally purchase, sell, and possess marijuana accessories and paraphernalia. The new law spells out these items as “equipment, products, devices or materials of any kind that are intended or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing marijuana into the human body.” This also means that the presence of marijuana paraphernalia and accessories alone will no longer give law enforcement grounds to search further as they previously did.


  • The new laws do not apply to anyone under the age of 21, unless they have obtained a valid doctor’s recommendation. Minors under 21 years of age are prohibited from possessing, consuming, cultivating, or purchasing cannabis in any form.
  • Currently, no one in Massachusetts can legally sell marijuana for “adult-use.” Massachusetts will appoint a Cannabis Control Commission, who will be assigned the task of issuing licenses to prospective retail shops.
  • You still cannot consume marijuana in public places, no matter your age or medical marijuana status. Using cannabis is also barred in any places where tobacco is already illegal to smoke.
  • You may not be in possession of marijuana on school grounds, regardless of age.
  • All existing laws prohibiting the act of driving under the influence of marijuana remain unchanged. You also may not carry open containers of cannabis in your vehicle, unless they are locked in the trunk or glovebox.
  • If your landlord has a rule against smoking or growing marijuana in the residence, that trumps the new laws. However, landlords are prohibited from banning other marijuana consumption methods such as vaping or eating edibles.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett

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