Equity Project State Briefing
Is Cannabis Legal in Massachusetts?
Cannabis in Massachusetts is legal for both medical and adult use.
Date of Legalization
Massachusetts legalized the medical use of cannabis in the 2012 November election cycle,. The law took effect January 1, 2013. The state legalized the adult use of cannabis in the 2016 November election cycle. As a result, cannabis became legal for adults to grow and possess in Massachusetts on December 15, 2016.
Within Massachusetts adult use framework, adults 21+ may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, except that not more than 5 grams of marijuana may be in the form of marijuana concentrate. Adults may possess up to 10 ounces and up to 6 plants within their home. Within the medical framework, patients may possess a 60 day supply (10 ounces unless given special medical permission) and up to 12 home plants.
Other Licensing Provisions
- License Caps:
Massachusetts adult use framework does not have any license caps at the state level. The total number of licenses in a community is locally controlled. However, a single licensee is capped at 3 marijuana retailer licenses, 3 medical marijuana treatment center licenses, 3 marijuana product manufacturer licenses and 3 marijuana cultivator licenses.
Localities may opt out of participating in the adult use cannabis market, however after 2019 localities must submit any proposed restrictions to the voters.There is a carve out protecting medical cannabis operators existing prior to 2017, as a an ordinance can not prevent the conversion of a medical marijuana treatment center to a [adult use] marijuana establishment engaged in the same type of activity.
Application Selection Process
- Selection System:
In Massachusetts adult use cannabis licenses are distributed based on merit. The Commission will review adult use cannabis licensure applications based on its priority status and when it was submitted. Within 90 days of license application submission, the Commission will issue either a provisional license or a rejection.
License applications shall be evaluated based on the applicant’s:
- Demonstrated compliance with the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth;
- Suitability for licensure based on the provisions within the law (935 CMR 500.101(1), 500.800 and 500.801;) and
- Evaluation of the thoroughness of the applicant’s responses to the required criteria. The Commission shall consider each license application submitted by an applicant on a rolling basis.
Felony Disqualification on Ownership
- Ownership Exclusion for Felony Convictions:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
Massachusetts’ adult use framework disqualifies applicants for cannabis licensure on the basis of certain convictions. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission conducts criminal background checks on prospective adult use cannabis business owners. A license cannot be granted to anyone with a prior felony conviction. The law creates a carve out, protecting individuals with qualified marijuana-related convictions and possession of a controlled substance convictions, unless the offense involved distribution to a minor.
Employee Criminal Records
- Conviction Restrictions for Employees:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
In Massachusetts, all employees at a cannabis establishment must apply for an Agent Registration Card [work permit] which requires a state background check. Individuals with felony convictions are prohibited from working in the industry. The law creates a carve out, protecting individuals with qualified marijuana-related convictions and possession of a controlled substance unless the offense involved distribution to a minor.
Availability of Expungements
Massachusetts offers record cleaning for offenses which are no longer illegal under state law, however, the process is not automatic.