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Timeline of Cannabis History in Massachusetts

The cannabis industry is thriving in the Bay State, with millions of dollars spent each month by consumers and new dispensaries opening at a rapid rate. Consumer cannabis products are available to purchase by Massachusetts residents and visitors who are 21 and older, thanks to legislation that ended cannabis prohibition.

Not only did Massachusetts make it legal for people to use cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes, but it did so with a social equity program that addressed those communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition.

When did Massachusetts legalize weed? Read on to learn more about the timeline of cannabis history in Massachusetts.

A Massachusetts Cannabis Timeline: Starting With Yes on 4

Commonwealth voters responded to “Question 4” in 2016, with slightly more than 53% responding “yes.” The affirmative majority agreed that recreational marijuana should be legalized and regulated (those voting “no” were in favor of maintaining a legal status for only medical marijuana).

The 2016 vote did not mean that marijuana would be available for legal purchase immediately; legislative wheels, much like the wheels of justice, turn slowly. Almost two years to the day since the affirmative votes won the majority, sales began in the Commonwealth on November 20, 2018.

While the 2016 vote is the pivotal date for Massachusetts’s cannabis history timeline, there were certainly some important events leading up to it, including those listed below:

2008: Massachusetts residents voted in favor of an initiative to decriminalize cannabis possession in small amounts (less than one ounce).

2012: Massachusetts residents voted in favor of making medical cannabis legal. Patients were required to have a registration card, which could be secured after a physician’s recommendation. Many residents battling cancer, glaucoma, and other medical issues would become registered and go on to use medical marijuana legally in Massachusetts.

2016: Massachusetts voters cast their ballots in favor of legalizing cannabis in a regulated market in the Commonwealth. This historic vote resulted in the elimination of legal penalties associated with limited possession of cannabis.

2017: The implementation of a regulated cannabis market in Massachusetts was delayed by six months from January to July, with a number of legislative battles taking place, though ultimately, the law prevailed. On July 28, 2017, Governor Charlie Baker signed it into law.

2018: Massachusetts’ first sales of recreational cannabis began in November.

2018 and Beyond: A Thriving Cannabis Market in Massachusetts

Since the legalization of recreational cannabis occurred, Massachusetts has become home to a thriving cannabis industry with hundreds of farms and dispensaries across the state. After those first sales in November 2018, the state has since seen an incredible $4 billion in sales.

Cannabis harvest

Along with the legalization of cannabis came a 2020 social equity program designed to reserve delivery licenses for specific applicants for the first three years (in communities that had been disproportionately affected by the penalties associated with cannabis before it was legalized).

Massachusetts cannabis farms and dispensaries do more than provide consumer products; they are also making a significant and positive impact in terms of tax revenue and jobs.

Many growers in the state are also committed to best practices for the environment and are constantly seeking new ways to make their operations as environmentally conscious as possible. In so many ways, the cannabis industry brings positive benefits to the state and its communities.

Massachusetts Cannabis FAQs

How Much Cannabis Can I Possess in Massachusetts?

As far as possession amounts go in Massachusetts for recreational cannabis, adults 21 and older may have up to one ounce of cannabis on their person. An additional consideration is that only 5 grams of that total ounce count may be in concentrated form (which has a higher THC potency). In your home, you may keep more than an ounce as long as a lock secures it.

Can I Take Cannabis Across State Lines?

Once you have legally purchased cannabis in Massachusetts, you may not take it across state lines; the possession of cannabis in Massachusetts airports is also prohibited by law.

How Can I Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Massachusetts?

Medical marijuana cards in Massachusetts are based on certain qualifying conditions. The resident must be over 18 years old with the approval of a state-certified physician.

Currently, the illnesses and conditions on the qualifying list for medical marijuana card applicants are as follows:

  • ALS
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

The application process can be found here.

Where Can I Use Cannabis Products in Massachusetts?

It is generally still illegal to use cannabis in public spaces, and fines are in place for doing so. For example, you cannot smoke marijuana in places where you would also be prohibited from smoking tobacco products.

However, an individual city may have its own ordinances for areas where social consumption is allowed. Play it safe to avoid fines and abstain from public use of cannabis products unless you have confirmed an ordinance of such kind exists.

Can I Ship Cannabis Products Outside of Massachusetts?

Even legally purchased cannabis in Massachusetts cannot be shipped across a state line (or anywhere else in the world). The cannabis products you purchase in the Commonwealth are only for use and enjoyment within the state. This includes medical marijuana as well.

Can I Grow My Own Cannabis in Massachusetts?

It is legal for Massachusetts residents to grow up to six cannabis plants in their own homes. Where there are two adults present in a household, you may grow up to 12 cannabis plants.

Potency: Creating Cannabis for Your Enjoyment

Located in Pittsfield, Potency is your go-to source for the best cannabis in Massachusetts, along with a team whose passion is to help you find the right products. We carry the best variety of high testing flower!

From edibles to prerolls, from concentrates to vapes, we have an unbeatable selection and are always happy to guide you through our recommendations and answer questions about cannabis.

Sign up here for updates on events and promotions so you can stay in the know when it comes to new cannabis products and offerings, or stop by and see us to learn more.


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