In 2016, the residents of Massachusetts voted yes to Question 4, the result being that recreational marijuana was to become legal for those over the age of 21. Recreational marijuana legalization is a trend that can be seen across the USA, and it is a fair bet that next year will see two or three more states who have a vote on the issue. But the industry is still very new, and states such as Massachusetts still have to put procedures, rules and guidelines in place regulating the growth, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana. The Massachusetts State Treasurer will appoint a Cannabis Control Commission to promulgate regulations related to recreational marijuana by September 1, 2017. Licenses for the cultivation, distribution and retail of marijuana will not be issued until January 2018, so cannabis connoisseurs are still waiting for the day they can buy their favorite substance. When a state legalizes recreational marijuana, it is up to local municipalities to vote on whether they want to accept or not, and they have the right to ban outlets and dispensaries. If a municipality allows the use of recreational marijuana, it can still be banned if a larger town or city has a referendum on the issue to ban or limit sales.
Newton and Marijuana
By a small margin, Newton voters accepted recreational marijuana in 2016 (around 25,000 to 20,000). But this is only the beginning, as Newton has to conclude what it is going to do in relation to the many questions that arise in relation to marijuana legalization. There are a number of considerations, the main ones being that medical marijuana dispensaries are regulated, as well as recreational dispensaries. There is the question of taxation. One of the main concerns is how to keep cannabis products out of the hands of children and teenagers. Rules on advertising need to be put in place, and Colorado recently put a ban on cannabis edibles in the shape of gummy bears, as these were too appealing to children. There is also the question of security, zoning and the hours of operation of dispensaries in Newton. One issue which is going under the radar is the question of marijuana quality. There is not enough of an emphasis on marijuana testing by independent facilities, and much marijuana is said to be laden with toxins of all kinds. Potential mayor candidate Ruthanne Fuller said on the issue that
“As mayor, I will reach out to all segments of our community to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that achieves these important goals. A special Mayor’s Committee will look to the input of citizens, the experience of other cities and states, the guidance of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, and the perspectives of our educators, law enforcement personnel, public health officials, and other stakeholders, in fashioning that plan”
The new law gives the people of Newton the final say on one critical issue. Any limit on the number of dispensaries must be approved by the voters. This is a wonderful occurrence. What is happening all over the USA where medical marijuana is legal and recreational marijuana is not is that the whole marijuana industry is being centralized in the hands of a few select rich businesses. The permits are extremely prohibitive and completely eliminate startups from applying. The result is that patients must pay top dollar for their marijuana and have no choice but to purchase from them or go down the black-market avenue, which many patients in New Jersey are said to be doing due to the outrageous cost of medical marijuana in the area.
Marijuana in Massachusetts
It is still illegal to publicly consume marijuana in Massachusetts, though home growth and use is allowed. It is also illegal to smoke marijuana and drive, though there is no current method to test for marijuana. This is because there is no way to accurately measure the levels of THC in the body in the same way that police can measure alcohol in the blood. A breathalyzer test cannot work. Selling marijuana is also illegal until January 2018 when it becomes legal, and in the meantime there is something of a grey area. Residents can buy pot online from a dealer, and the dealer is breaking the law.
Massachusetts voters decriminalized marijuana in 2008, replacing the criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less with a new system of civil penalties. In 2012, voters approved a ballot question legalizing marijuana for medical use. It then became law in 2016 which will come into force of January 2018. The current law allows up to 6 plants per person and a maximum of 12 plants per household. But much remains to be seen with rules and regulations, with the public hoping that administrators will not interfere too much with the growth of a plant that has been consumed for thousands of years. Of particular concern will be police who try to investigate households for growing more than 12 plants of marijuana, or of state regulators micro investigating the growth of the household plant.