What You Need To Know About Recreational Marijuana In Massachusetts

Photo Credit: James MacDonald

The marijuana industry in Massachusetts will hit a major milestone Sunday, as recreational sales of cannabis become legal.

But while you might be legally able to buy recreational marijuana at a pot shop, so far there aren’t any licensed shops to sell it to you. That’s expected to change in the next few weeks and months.

So what’s this new industry going to look like? What do users need to know? We asked you for your questions, and we have some answers.

Where can I buy marijuana?

As of right now, nowhere. The Cannabis Control Commission, the panel charged with regulating and licensing marijuana businesses, has long said not to expect  Massachusetts to look like Colorado on July 1.

So far the commission has OK’d the license application of just one business. On Thursday, the panel granted a cultivator license to a grower in Milford, Sira Naturals, but that’s not a retail store.

The 30 open registered medical marijuana dispensaries are expected to apply for adult-use retail licenses, and those are likely the first retail stores that will open.

What towns, as of now, are open to having marijuana shops opening up? — Kevin

That number is shifting. As of now, there are about 70 communities that have a ban on the books, and about 160 more cities and towns have a moratorium of some sort in place, though most of those moratoriums are expiring at the end of this year.

Will towns that ban cannabis businesses or enact moratoriums still receive tax dollars generated from sales of cannabis products within Massachusetts? — Joe Crinkley

Yes. They’ll share in the statewide 17 percent sales and marijuana excise taxes that are generated from the sale of cannabis, because that money goes into the state’s general fund, and all communities benefit from that. The communities that have enacted bans and moratoriums of course will not get the optional local tax, which can be up to 3 percent for a marijuana-friendly town.

Those city and town positions could change. As we said, most of those moratoriums expire at the end of the year.

What does the law say about possession and consumption for adults over 18 but under 21? — Dave

Only adults 21 or older can legally purchase and possess marijuana, except for those who are registered patients. If you’re over 18 but under 21, you face a civil penalty of $100, and need to complete a drug awareness program.

I live in New Hampshire, work in Massachusetts. Can I buy marijuana for recreational use in Mass.? — Anonymous

Yes, but you may have a hard time finding some place where you can legally consume the product you purchase. Taking it home over the state line is not legal under federal law, and consuming it in Massachusetts at a public place is illegal under state law. If you live in New Hampshire and have a friend who owns a home in Massachusetts, you could legally consume it on your buddy’s couch.

For medical marijuana, there was a required registration into a database of users. Will the state be keeping track of who buys [recreational]? — Leah

Cannabis businesses are not required to capture any vital information, other than to check an ID to make sure a customer is 21 — sort of like they do at a liquor store.

How does this affect medical marijuana? I am beginning the process of getting a medical marijuana card. Would this still be necessary? — Anonymous

That’s a personal call. Medical marijuana is currently tax free. You’d have to do the math to figure out if the cost of maintaining your card is less than what you would pay in tax for your supply. Medical patients will also have access to separate lines and a separate supply.

When dispensaries start selling recreational cannabis, will there be a shortage of medicinal cannabis to registered medical marijuana patients? — Max

There likely will be a rush on supply once the adult-use sales are available. But the Cannabis Control Commission has instructed medical dispensaries to reserve 35 percent of their inventory for sale only through the medical marijuana program.

Once I finally am able to buy marijuana, where can I use it?

At home — that is, if you own your house. If you have roommates or a landlord who doesn’t want you smoking there, you might be out of luck. Landlords can place restrictions on whether you can smoke in your home, just like they can with cigarettes. And you can’t smoke in public, or anywhere where you’re prohibited from smoking tobacco.

What about bringing a cannabis-infused brownie into a movie theater, and snacking on it during the previews?

Setting aside the movie theater policy of no outside food for a moment, eating that cannabis-infused brownie is public consumption of cannabis, and that is not allowed under the law.

Will cannabis “cafes” — i.e., places to both buy and consume — be legal? — Tim Cox

Yes, they call that “social use,” but it’s been put on hold for awhile. The Cannabis Control Commission won’t pick up social use or home delivery until at least October.

What about other ways to consume cannabis?

Smoking is probably the most obvious, old school way of getting high. There’s vaping, where cannabis in the form of flower, oil or wax is heated up to a vapor that’s nearly odorless. There are edibles, which have THC infused in them. And there’s all sorts of pills and topical creams and tinctures that are really unobtrusive.

Any recommendations if I haven’t gotten high in awhile?

We asked Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title for her advice. Here’s what she said:

I would recommend starting low. The benefit of vaping or smoking is you can very consciously adjust the amount you’re using because you’ll feel it right away. So you can take one puff. And then slow down and see how you feel and then decide.

If you want to take an edible I would start at one serving, which has been designated at 5 milligrams. Give it two hours and see how you feel. And the next time you can take a little more if you want. But it’s much better to start low than accidentally take too much and not feel well.