Marijuana possession, sale, and manufacture are regulated by both state and federal law. In Massachusetts, marijuana is classified as a class D substance. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 31.) Unlike some states, Massachusetts does not allow medical marijuana use. And while not covered in this article, it is also a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana in Massachusetts.
For information about charges and penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana in Massachusetts, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Massachusetts.
It is a crime to knowingly or intentionally possess marijuana in Massachusetts. Penalties vary according to the amount possessed, with additional penalties for minors in possession of marijuana.
- Up to one ounce. A violation is a civil offense, punishable with a fine of $100 (and forfeiture of the marijuana). (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 32L.)
- More than one ounce. A violation is misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of $500, up to six months in jail, or both. However, for first offenses, the judge will order the defendant to complete a period of probation in lieu of jail time or fines. Upon successful completion of probation, the charges against the defendant will be dropped, and the defendant’s record will be sealed (it won't be a public record). For second and subsequent offenses, the judge may, but is not obligated to impose probation in lieu of jail time or fines. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 34.)
- Minor in possession. In addition to the fines described above, minors who possess any amount of marijuana will be sentenced to at least four hours of classroom instruction in a drug awareness program, and at least ten hours of community service. If a minor does not complete these requirements within one year, the judge will impose an additional $1,000 fine (which may be collected from either the minor or the minor’s parents). (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 32M.)
Cultivation and Sale
It is illegal to knowingly cultivate marijuana plants or to sell marijuana in Massachusetts. Violations involving 50 or fewer pounds of marijuana are penalized according to whether the violation is a first or a subsequent offense. Amounts greater than 50 pounds are treated as trafficking crimes, and punished according to the guidelines described in the next section. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 32C.)
- First offense. Penalties for a first offense include a fine of up between $500 and $5,000, up to two years in prison, or both.
- Second or subsequent offense. For second offenses, the defendant will face a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, between one and two and a half years in prison, or both.
In Massachusetts, “trafficking” includes knowingly cultivating, selling, or bringing more than 50 pounds of marijuana from out of state. Trafficking is illegal, and penalties vary according to the amount of marijuana involved in the offense. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 32E.)
- Between 50 and 100 pounds. Penalties include a fine between $500 and $10,000, and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year (and up to 15 years), or both.
- Between 100 and 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine between $2,500 and $25,000, and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years (and up to 15 years), or both.
- Between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine between $5,000 and $50,000, and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years (and up to 15 years), or both.
- 10,000 pounds or more. Penalties include a fine between $20,000 and $200,000, and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of ten years (and up to 15 years), or both.
It is a illegal in Massachusetts to possess, use, advertise, or sell drug paraphernalia. Paraphernalia includes items used in growing, harvesting, processing, selling, storing, or using marijuana. Penalties vary according to whether the sale was to an adult or a minor.
- Sales to an adult. Penalties include a fine of between $500 and $5,000, between one and two years in prison, or both.
- Sales to a minor. Penalties include a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, between one and three years in prison, or both.
Does Massachusetts Impose a Stamp Tax on Marijuana?
Yes. A stamp tax is a tax imposed on certain types of transactions (such as the transfer of property) that requires a stamp to be purchased and attached either to the item sold or to an instrument documenting the transaction (such as a deed). The federal government imposes stamp taxes on deeds, the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds, and on playing cards.
In Massachusetts, those who buy, transport, or import marijuana into Massachusetts are required to pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) onto the contraband. However, because the possession of marijuana is illegal, people typically don’t pay the stamp tax. When you are convicted for possession, you will also be liable for payment of the unpaid taxes ($3.50 for each gram or portion of a gram). (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 8.)
The Value of Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse.