Bay Staters vote to end marijuana prohibition!
Last update: November 9, 2016
On November 8, 2016, Massachusetts made history by becoming one of the first states on the East Coast to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult use.
The Marijuana Policy Project played a leading role in the campaign to pass Question 4, which faced vigorous opposition from the outset. Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo campaigned against the measure, but voters ultimately rejected their arguments and voted to end marijuana prohibition
MPP will now shift its focus to implementation of the new law, which is scheduled to take effect on December 15.
Only six dispensaries open, highlighting slow approval process
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 had passed — the Department of Public Health allowed the first dispensary to begin cultivating on December 31, 2014. The first dispensary opened in Salem on June 24, 2015, and six dispensaries have opened since then.
Question 3 called for up to 35 dispensaries (more if deemed necessary by regulators), but only 15 dispensary applicants were selected by the department in 2014. In June 2015, the department announced that it would scrap its controversial scoring system for applicants and that it would instead begin considering applications on a rolling basis. Over 150 dispensary applicants are currently involved in the process of seeking state approval.
Meanwhile, patients have been able to apply for ID cards since October 2014. The registration is mandatory: Unregistered patients are no longer afforded any protection from being arrested. 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.