Over the last 15 years in Massachusetts, cannabis progressed from full prohibition to decriminalization before becoming medically accessible and then recreationally legal. The new laws reflect the growing body of scholarship supporting the effectiveness of marijuana as a treatment and changing attitudes about cannabis consumption.
Today, thanks to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, residents of the commonwealth of Massachusetts can purchase high-quality cannabis grown under strict oversight to treat their medical conditions. The changing landscape features rules that apply to everyone and broader access for medical users.
Knowing how to navigate the commonwealth’s state laws and regulations will help you best manage the symptoms of your debilitating health condition(s) with medical cannabis. Obtaining a medical marijuana card will allow you to take full advantage of the benefits offered by MA’s cannabis program.
In 1911, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law prohibiting marijuana. The most significant reversal to Massachusetts marijuana laws happened almost 100 years later. In 2008, voters passed a ballot initiative decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
In 2012, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative passed a ballot measure with 63% of the vote. The state did not open its first dispensaries until late 2015. The new law allowed patients with a medical marijuana card to possess up to a 60-day supply of cannabis.
Over the next several years, the Massachusetts legislature revised the law, expanding access and protections for medical marijuana users. Cardholders’ medical marijuana purchases are exempt from state sales tax.
The state passed adult-use cannabis laws in 2016, allowing recreational cannabis purchases for anyone over 21 years old. As part of the recreational law, lawmakers ensured dispensaries maintain a reserve of cannabis for medical patients in case of shortages.
Subsequent legislation and regulations placed caps on the concentration of THC in recreational products. Medical products are allowed to contain higher concentrations of THC.
Possession laws are different for medical and recreational users. Under Massachusetts law, anyone 18 years of age and older or with a personal caregiver can obtain a medical marijuana card with a written certification from a healthcare provider documenting a qualifying medical condition.
Minors cannot purchase marijuana, even if they are registered medical marijuana patients. Their caregivers must do so for them.
Qualifying patients can possess up to a 60-day supply or 10 ounces of marijuana at a time. Massachusetts allows medical patients to exceed this limit of adult-use marijuana if their doctor certifies that they need a higher dose to treat their debilitating medical condition(s). Such conditions can include glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, and others.
Registered cannabis patients are allowed to cultivate 12 flowering and 12 vegetative cannabis plants in their homes for personal use. The plants cannot be visible from the street and must be kept in a secure location with a lock.
Patients must have their medical marijuana card with them whenever they possess marijuana.
Anyone 21 or older with a valid government-ID can purchase recreational cannabis in Massachusetts. You can legally possess 1 ounce of marijuana outside your home or up to 10 ounces of marijuana in your home. Recreational users can cultivate up to 6 plants, as long as they’re secured with a lock and not visible from the street.
Medical cardholders and recreational users are subject to the same public consumption laws. You cannot consume marijuana in public places in Massachusetts.
Smoking, vaping, and taking edibles are all illegal in public or on federal lands, including parks, cafes, and public transportation. The civil penalty for consuming cannabis in public is up to $100.
Cities and towns can pass ordinances allowing sites for public consumption. Check with your local government to find communal use sites in your area. Landlords and employers can ban marijuana use on their premises. Even if you have a marijuana registration card, you are still subject to private businesses and property owners’ policies.
Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis is illegal. Law enforcement can arrest individuals with probable cause based on mere suspicion of them being under the influence of marijuana. There is currently no field test for marijuana intoxication.
You should not drive after consuming any amount of marijuana because officers determine what intoxication entails based on their own judgment. Plan your treatment around times you don’t have to drive or rely on public transit and ride shares. Also, remember that cannabis is still a controlled substance under federal law, meaning you can be prosecuted for possessing it if you transport it across state lines.
In addition, open containers of marijuana are prohibited in the passenger area of a vehicle. Cannabis must be in a sealed container, stored in a locked glove compartment, or placed in the trunk during transport. This violation is punished with a civil penalty of up to $500.
The first step to obtaining your medical marijuana card is to consult a registered physician and obtain a written certification. This form confirms you have a Massachusetts-recognized qualifying medical condition and that a physician believes cannabis can help manage it.
The provider will electronically transmit your certification to the state. You can then complete the application. First, register for an account on the Medical Use of Marijuana System. Then complete the demographic information. You then must read and agree to an attestation about medical marijuana use.
If you have an ID through the RMV, it will link to your account to verify your identity. Otherwise, you need to upload an approved ID. You then upload your proof of residency document and a photo if your RMV account is not linked.
Doctors in Massachusetts are not required to register as marijuana providers. The Sanctuary can help connect you with a registered and qualified medical marijuana doctor to assess your condition and issue the written certification.
Our team can help you navigate the Massachusetts portal and advise you about the necessary supporting documents to streamline your application and get approval as soon as possible.
Recreational marijuana is legal for adults over the age of 21. You are allowed to possess a maximum of 1 ounce of marijuana on your person and 10 ounces in your home. Recreational marijuana products have lower THC concentrations than medical products.
Registered patients can possess up to a 60-day supply or 10 ounces of marijuana. You can purchase flowers, tinctures, vape cartridges, topical gels, creams, ointments, pre-rolls, and edibles. The dispensary staff will assist you with selecting the best products for your condition, symptoms, and treatment goals.
You can possess 10 ounces or a 60-day supply under the law. The limit is on a rolling basis, so you could purchase 10 ounces at one dispensary visit and wait 60 days for your next purchase. You can also purchase smaller amounts over time but cannot cross the 10-ounce threshold in a 60-day period.
However, if you require a larger quantity to manage your qualifying condition, your medical provider can issue a waiver to increase your possession limit.
Massachusetts does not accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards. A non-resident can purchase marijuana under the state’s recreational laws if they are over 21 and have a valid government-issued ID.
It remains illegal to transport marijuana, even if it was legally purchased, across state lines due to the ongoing federal prohibition on marijuana.
You can obtain a medical marijuana card in Massachusetts with a felony conviction. However, medical marijuana cards do not exempt you from terms of parole, employment-related drug screening, or policies held by private businesses concerning marijuana use.