In November, voters in Massachusetts said yes to a bill to legalize cannabis. And late last week, that bill was officially signed into law. It will still take some time, however, before the state has a fully operational cannabis market. And in the meantime, there could be a lot of “gray areas” as the state transitions to a legal marijuana industry.
Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization
On Election Day last month, Massachusetts voters decided on a measure to legalize recreational pot. There were 1.8 million people who voted yes, and 1.5 million who voted no.
About a month later, the Governor’s Council met to officially accept ballot results. The meeting is mostly a formality. But it still marked the moment in which last month’s voting results became officially certified.
Last Wednesday, when the Governor’s Council officially accepted polling results, it confirmed the new cannabis laws. As a result, it’s now legal for adults 21 and over to possess, use, and grow cannabis.
The “Gray Area”
Although cannabis legalization is now official in Massachusetts, there’s still some confusion. Most of that confusion comes from the fact that it will take some time before the state’s legal pot market is fully operational.
Under the new law, adults can now buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. And an individual can grow up to six cannabis plants at home, with a max of 12 plants per household.
But it’s still illegal to consume cannabis in public, and to drive while under the influence. It’s also illegal to sell pot outside the state-licensed and regulated market.
And getting that market up and running will take some time. First off, the state treasurer has to appoint a three-person Cannabis Control Commission. That group has to be created by March 2017.
From there, the agency will put together more detailed rules and regulations for the legal cannabis market. Once that’s all in place, the state can begin issuing licenses to sellers who want to set up cannabis shops. Dispensaries should be operational by January 2018.
But in the meantime, it’s still illegal to actually sell marijuana. That means that a person can legally buy weed from a dealer, but the dealer will be breaking the law.
The changes in Massachusetts are part of a larger national trend toward legalizing pot. On the same day that Massachusetts voters approved legalization, voters in Maine, California, and Nevada also voted to legalize recreational cannabis.
Along with those states, Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota approved new medical marijuana laws. Taken as a whole, this year’s elections open the way for a new wave of legalization. Now, 1 in 5 Americans will have access to some form of legal cannabis.
All of this reflects growing public support of marijuana. Earlier this year, a survey found that public support of legalization was at an all time high.
That study found that 89% of American voters support medical marijuana, while 54% support legal recreational use. Despite this popular support and the results from this year’s elections, however, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.