Last Update: September 23, 2014

State considers taxing and regulating marijuana

In 2013, Massachusetts Rep. Ellen Story introduced H.1632, a bill that would allow adults who are 21 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana and that would create a system for taxing and regulating marijuana production and sales. On April 24, 2014, the Joint Committee on Judiciary considered testimony on this bill. MPP’s Matt Simon submitted testimony and appeared on the Boston FOX affiliate making the case for sensible marijuana regulation.

A majority of Bay State voters approve of this idea. 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.

Eleven dispensaries approved, some expected to open in late 2014

On Nov. 6, 2012, 63% of Bay State voters approved Question 3, making their state the 18th to enact a compassionate medical marijuana program. The Department of Public Health held listening sessions throughout the state and crafted rules to implement the law in 2013.

On January 31, 2014, the Department of Public Health announced that it had granted preliminary approval to 20 non-profit dispensaries, but after a more detailed review of applications, on June 27, the department announced that  it had rejected nine of those applications. Only 11 dispensary applicants
were issued certificates allowing them to move forward with their plans. The first dispensaries could open as soon as November 2014. The applicants who were rejected may reapply next year, as Question 3 calls for up to 35 dispensaries to be located in the state.

Meanwhile, the patient registry is not yet up and running, though it had been anticipated by January 1, 2014. In the meantime, patients do not have to register, and they may cultivate a limited supply of marijuana. Once the law is fully implemented, patients will need a hardship registration (due to financial or other hardship) to be allowed to cultivate. You can read our summary of the new 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.

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