Last Update: April 1, 2015
Massachusetts will consider taxing and regulating marijuana
One way or another, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will seriously consider ending marijuana prohibition in 2015 or 2016.
In March 2015, Rep. Dave Rogers (D-Belmont) and Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) introduced H.1561, a bill that would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for legal use by adults. A bipartisan group of 13 co-sponsors has signed on in support. Unfortunately, Gov. Charlie Baker has said he will “vigorously” oppose legalization.
In November 2014, voters in 14 districts set the stage for meaningful reform when they approved non-binding ballot questions indicating support for making marijuana legal. The legislature will have an opportunity to heed the call of voters in 2015, but it is likely they will fail to act. In that case, MPP has announced that it plans to support a ballot initiative — led by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts — that will give Bay Staters an opportunity to end prohibition themselves in the November 2016 election.
Most Bay State voters already believe marijuana should be legal. A Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll released in February 2014 found that 53% of likely Massachusetts voters “favor … the legalization of marijuana.” Only 37% were opposed. Please ask your legislators to support this sensible proposal!
Fifteen dispensaries approved; one expected to open in spring 2015
On November 6, 2012, 63% of Bay State voters approved Question 3, making their state the 18th to enact a compassionate medical marijuana program. More than two years later — long after deadlines have passed — the Department of Public Health gave final approval for the first dispensary to begin cultivating. The associated dispensary is expected to open in Salem this spring.
Fourteen other dispensaries have preliminary approval but are not yet licensed. Because Question 3 calls for 35 dispensaries to be allowed, the state will accept additional dispensary applications — including from those who were previously rejected — later this year.
Meanwhile, patients have been able to apply for ID cards since October 2014. The registration is mandatory: Unregistered patients will not have any protection from arrest beginning on February 1, 2015. If you are a patient, click here to visit the Department of Public Health’s website, where you may begin the application process.
You can read our summary of Massachusetts' medical marijuana law here.
Marijuana laws in Massachusetts
Although possession of under an ounce of marijuana is punishable by a civil fine of $100 in Massachusetts, pursuant to an initiative campaign led by MPP in 2008, the prohibition of marijuana has plenty of opportunity costs. Time spent enforcing marijuana laws could better be used to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of serious and violent crime. According to data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, in 2012, the clearance rate for murder in Massachusetts was 47.9%; for rape and burglary, the clearance rates were 24.9% and 10.2%, respectively.
Additionally, new evidence suggests that Massachusetts’ marijuana laws are not being evenly enforced. A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Massachusetts are 3.9 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Please email your legislators and ask them to consider a more sensible alternative.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Massachusetts, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service.