On Thursday, December 15, Massachusetts becomes the sixth US state to eliminate criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis. The law change ends over a century-long policy of criminal cannabis prohibition in the Bay State.
“By legalizing the adult use of marijuana, Massachusetts will shrink the illicit black market, generate millions in tax revenue, end the arrest of otherwise law abiding citizens, and better enable society to keep marijuana out of the hands of children,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences.
On Election Day, 54 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Question 4 permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis. Adults may possess up to one ounce and/or up to five grams of concentrate on their person. In addition, adults may legally possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana flower in their home.
Separate provisions in the statute also license the commercial cannabis production and retail sales of cannabis. Those regulations do not take effect until January 1, 2018. However, some state lawmakers have suggested delaying this timeline, raising the state’s proposed sales tax rate, and amending the state’s new home cultivation guidelines.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano encouraged lawmakers to act swiftly to implement the other elements of Question 4 as they were initially written and approved by voters.
“Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to impose criminal penalties on marijuana – doing so in 1914,” Armentano said. “After more than a century of this failed policy, it is time to bring prohibition to an end in Massachusetts.”