Though many people consider the West Coast to be the forerunners in the decriminalization of cannabis and leaders in the emerging legal cannabis industry, New England is fast becoming an area where lawmakers and the public have embraced the plant. More and more states in the area are legalizing cannabis for both medical and recreational use, so let’s take a look at the evolving cannabis laws in New England, specifically Maine and Massachusetts. All marijuana businesses in the area need to know the laws so that their products can reach consumers and patients.
Legal History of Cannabis Laws in New England
The history of hemp in New England is a long one, as the plant came with the Jamestown settlers as early as 1611. In the modern day, the states in New England are usually liberal, and laws surrounding cannabis have relaxed year by year, following trends in the rest of the nation.
At first, hemp was grown for the fibers of the plant, which make everything from rope to canvas, but at least by the 1700s, George Washington was growing and studying the plant for its medicinal uses. During the 1800s, extract of cannabis was widely recommended for all the illnesses it’s prescribed for today, including nausea, anxiety, spasms, arthritis, pain, and depression.
As the twentieth century dawned, however, we started to look at the drugs at pharmacies and determine which ones were harmful and which safe for the public. What started as a drive to make impurities in drugs illegal led to making certain classes of drugs illegal, including cannabis. Prohibition of alcohol didn’t help, and in 1937, the US government effectively made cannabis illegal with the Marijuana Tax Act. So it remained illegal for forty years until counterculture youths who smoked cannabis were old enough to vote in more relaxed cannabis laws.
Early Legalization Efforts
In 1970, Washington attorneys formed the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as NORML, and lobbied for the relaxation of cannabis laws across the US. Three years later, Oregon became the first state to sort of decriminalize cannabis by making it a civil fine for possession of under an ounce. Other states followed, and in 1976, Maine became the first New England state to only impose a small civil fine for possessing under 1.25 ounces of cannabis. New York imposed only a fine of less than a hundred dollars in 1977, but Massachusetts and other New England states followed federal laws and kept cannabis illegal throughout the 1980s.
Medical Cannabis Legalization
The fight to legalize cannabis for medical use picked back up in the late 1990s, as California passed the historic Compassionate Use Act to allow chronically and terminally ill patients access to cannabis to relieve their suffering in their last days. Efforts by NORML and other organizations continued to push for decriminalization of medical cannabis, and more laws started to change.
Medical cannabis did eventually come to New England in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In 1999, Maine again led the area by passing medical cannabis legislation. Vermont was next in creating medical marijuana laws in 2004, and Rhode Island followed in 2006. In 2010, New Jersey became the next New England state to approve medical cannabis, with 2011 seeing Delaware and Connecticut joining in.
Current Laws for Cannabis in Maine
Marijuana laws in Maine have evolved over the years much like they have in states on the West coast like California. In 1976, the state was one of the first waves to lift criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis. Maine was also one of the forerunners of medical cannabis, passing laws decriminalizing it in 1999. Again in 2009, Maine became one of the most liberal states in the union by making possession of under two and a half ounces a civil offense with a low fine. These laws were further relaxed in 2013, as municipal legislation made under two and a half ounces legal in the capital city of Portland. During the Presidential election cycle in 2016, Maine made cannabis legal for recreational use along with many other states.
Current Laws for Cannabis in Massachusetts
Massachusetts joined Maine in making cannabis possession a minor civil offense instead of a criminal one in 2009. Medical cannabis legislation followed in 2012 when Massachusetts became the 18th state to allow marijuana for patients with certain diseases. The state department of health set up the Medical Use of Marijuana Department to regulate the rules for purchasing, possessing, and using medical marijuana, including laws for getting patient cards, municipal guidelines for dispensaries, packaging laws for cannabis products, and more. In 2018, Massachusetts is set to sell cannabis for recreational use, with a high total tax of 12 percent. Boston, Mass. hosts the Freedom Rally every year, an important 4/20 event for cannabis enthusiasts and businesses alike.
Current Packaging Cannabis Laws in New England
Packaging laws for marijuana and cannabis-infused products like edibles are similar across most states, but we’ll list a few of the laws for the New England states that have legalized cannabis.
- The state of Maine issued the Rules Governing the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program, an extensive document that lists everything cannabis businesses in Maine need to know about producing, packaging, and selling cannabis flowers and cannabis edibles in the state.
- The packaging of cannabis and cannabis edibles must be “in plain, opaque, tamper-proof, and child-proof containers.”
- Cannabis product logos must have a state-approved stamp, and MUST NOT contain any cartoons or other images tempting to children.
- Regulations clearly state that cannabis products can’t be packaged or labeled similar to candy, in order to keep these products out of the reach of children
The laws in Maine, Massachusetts, and other cannabis laws in New England states have relaxed so much, the area is fast becoming an emerging market in the cannabis industry. With events like the New England Cannabis Convention. If your business wants to join the thriving medical marijuana industry in New England, you need packaging that can follow all the laws and also present your product in the best light possible. At greenrushpackaging.com, we have the right bags, pouches, and envelopes to make your cannabis and cannabis products compliant with the law and attractive to your customers.