Recreational Marijuana In Massachussetts: New Laws Come With Several Caveats

While recreational marijuana will become legal in Massachusetts next week, it may be hard for the state’s pot smokers to get their supply. And it may also be hard to deal with the long list of don’ts, in comparison to the short list of dos with regards to the state’s new marijuana laws.

According to WBUR, the ballot question Massachusetts voters approved last month will take effect on Thursday, December 15. This will allow adults in the state to have “limited quantities” of recreational marijuana, and grow pot plants at home.

There is, however, one key catch among many others – selling recreational marijuana in Massachusetts is still illegal. Only registered medical marijuana patients can buy pot, and it won’t be for another year that the state’s first pot shops will become licensed and regulated.

Massachusetts Bar Association chief legal counsel Martin Healy told WBUR that recreational pot smokers will have to be patient for the meantime.

“For the average citizen… this is going to mean they have to wait a while until they can go into a store or facility and purchase marijuana over the counter.”

In addition, Healy and other legal experts believe that the delays in the regulation of over-the-counter marijuana purchases could lead to “confusion” at first for pot smokers, and maybe even for law enforcement. This was a point agreed upon by Jim Borghesani, spokesman for pro-legalization group RegulateMass, which sponsored the aforementioned ballot question. He believes the first year of legalization will be a “gray period” with a lot of uncertainty involved.

“It is legal to possess. It is illegal to sell without a retail license and retail licenses won’t be available for quite a while.”

The new recreational marijuana laws in Massachusetts have a few “dos” that residents have to keep in mind. Adults aged 21 and above can possess a maximum one ounce of pot when outside their homes. Once inside their homes, adults 21 and above are allowed a maximum 10 ounces of pot, and a single adult is allowed to cultivate a maximum six pot plants for personal consumption. Households with more than one adult are allowed up to 12 plants, also for personal use. Further, one adult is allowed to give one ounce of marijuana to another adult for free, but not for money.

The dont’s of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, on the other hand, are far more expensive than the do’s. They prohibit individuals and businesses from selling the plant for recreational purposes without a retail license. The laws, however, provide for a Cannabis Control Commission “yet to be named” that would issue retail licenses to qualified sellers.

Individuals below the age of 21 are not allowed to possess, purchase, grow, or use marijuana, while people, regardless of age, are not allowed to give away pot to anyone below that age cutoff. Pot smokers cannot consume the plant in any public place, or carry any amount of marijuana on school grounds, or operate cars and other vehicles while under the influence. The Massachusetts laws also stress that pot growers should do so “discreetly and securely,” and not make plants “plainly visible from the street or any public area.”

The new laws also prohibit individuals from keeping their pot in their vehicles (unless in a locked glove compartment or in the trunk), smoking pot in residences if landlords are against it, and transporting marijuana across state lines or via U.S. mail.

As mentioned above, the one year immediately following the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts may be a “gray period.” This is particularly true with law enforcement, according to a report from ABC affiliate WCVB. The report cites police officers who fear that pot smokers may take advantage of the new laws, and think it’s okay to drive while stoned or under the influence, even if that’s not the case at all. Authorities also worry that it may be far more difficult to prove someone was indeed driving while high, as compared to determining whether the person was driving drunk or not.

“Operating under the influence of alcohol is much easier to prove than for drugs, and we still lose a lot of those, so we’re very concerned,” Marshfield, Mass. police chief Phillip Tavares told WCVB.

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