Marijuana possession, sale, and manufacture are regulated by both state and federal law. In Massachusetts, marijuana is classified as a class D substance, and until recently was completely illegal. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. § 31.) However, in November 2016 voters passed the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, effective December 15, 2016. This law decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. (Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 10, Sections 76 and following.)
For information about charges and penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana in Massachusetts, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts’ 2016 law intends to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana in the same way it handles alcohol, for persons 21 years of age and older. Specifically, although marijuana may not be used in public, under the new law:
Other aspects of the law include:
The 2016 law provides for a range of penalties:
It is a crime to knowingly or intentionally possess large amounts of marijuana in Massachusetts—that is, amounts in excess of those permitted under the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. A violation is a 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.)
It is illegal to knowingly cultivate marijuana plants or to sell marijuana in Massachusetts, unless the activity fall within the small amount exceptions explained above. 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.)
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.)
It is illegal in Massachusetts to possess, use, advertise, or sell drug paraphernalia to minors. Paraphernalia includes items used in growing, harvesting, processing, selling, storing, or using marijuana. Penalties include a fine of between $500 and $5,000, between one and two years in prison, or both.
Under the 2016 Act, adults who furnish paraphernalia to those over the age of 21 years are not guilty of a crime.
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, and who are not covered by the 2016 Act, are required to pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) onto the contraband. However, because this level of 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.)
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.