In the United States, the use of cannabis, also known as ‘marijuana’ or ‘pot,’ is governed by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which states that possession is illegal. However, at the state level, legalization varies for recreational and medical use. As a schedule I substance, cannabis is deemed to have no acceptable medical uses with a high potential for abuse.
In the state of Massachusetts, legalization of cannabis has been approved, although it is still considered illegal at the federal level. The process of legalization in the state began in 2008 when the possession of small amounts was decriminalized. Before this motion was passed, if found in possession, citizens faced a $500 fine and up to 6 months in jail.
After the motion passed, possession was punishable with a $100 fine and did not get registered on the criminal history board. Minors found in possession would additionally need to complete 10 hours of community service and take a drug awareness program.
Approval for Medicinal Use
In November 2012, marijuana was approved for medicinal use by 63% of voters. The following January, the law took effect which eliminated any criminal or civil penalties for possession by patients who possessed a registration card issued by the state. Patients who qualified for the registration cards included those suffering from glaucoma, cancer as well as other conditions. The law allowed for 35 dispensaries that were to be state-licensed and non-profit.
The first dispensary only opened three years after the law was passed due to further regulations that needed to be implemented as well as opposition from the Massachusetts Medical Society. After many towns attempted to ban dispensaries, an attorney ruled that the law could not ban dispensaries entirely, but they could regulate them.
Approval for Recreational Use
November 2016, saw voters agree to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. This would allow for possession of up to 10 ounces inside a home and up to one ounce on your person outside of the home. Smoking of marijuana in public places remains banned in the same places as tobacco smoking.
However, Governor Charles Baker, in December 2016 signed legislation that would see a delay the beginning of sales for recreational marijuana. This legislation has delayed the commencement date by six months, to July of 2018. Furthermore, communities within the state have lodged applications to have this date further delayed.
When marijuana sales become legal in July 2018, retail sales will be taxed 10.75% on the substance as well as a 6.25% state sales tax. Additionally, local option taxes of up to 3% may also be added if applicable in the particular location. Thus, taxes on marijuana sales are set to be between 17 and 20% in the state of Massachusetts.
Board of Advisors and the Cannabis Control Commission
In August 2017, a Cannabis Advisory Board consisting of 25 members was set up. This was followed by the creation of the Cannabis Control Commission in September 2017. These groups aim to honor the voters’ decision to legalize the substance by ensuring that the laws are implemented in a safe, effective and equitable manner.
During December 2017, the Cannabis Control Commission began developing regulations that would govern this new and growing industry in the north-eastern state. Regulations would include places where the substance could be sold, such as cafes, movie theaters, yoga studios and the like.
In February of 2018, the commission agreed to put off the introduction of sales in these venues as well as home deliveries after public safety officials along with Gov. Baker put in a request to delay their introduction until retails stores had been fully set up and begin running. The commission will revisit the topic in October 2018 and potentially have drafted regulations for the implementation of cannabis cafes and the like from February 2019.
Setting Up A Marijuana Retail Store
If all goes according to plan, those wanting to open their own retail store to sell marijuana can apply to the Cannabis Control Commission for a retail license from June 1st, 2018, after which legal trading is set to begin July 1st. Should residents wish to start their own cannabis cultivation facility, application for a legal certification will be opened on May 1st.
There’s good news for those already operating a licensed medical marijuana facility, as they can apply for a ‘priority certification’ from April 2018 to set up a recreational facility. This priority certification will also be open to people in communities where economic empowerment has been affected by the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana.
The number of stores that citizens can expect to open doors on July 1st is still unclear, although numbers are being predicted around 25-30 stores, although some predictions reach as high as 40 or 50.
Supply and Demand
Many people are asking how much marijuana will be available for retail purchase and since there is already plenty demand, with predictions that July 1st will be a typical release day, with people queueing at the doors, and expect stores to sell out within a single week.
The legalization of recreational cannabis has stirred some worry in the minds of medical marijuana users, as many suppliers are resorting to a cash-only way of business. On the plus side, the Massachusetts State Police will be operating according to the law and only targeting illegal operations, so certified establishments will be free to trade, provided that patrons are over 21 years of age.