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 ch. 94C, § 31 (2019).) However, in November 2016 voters passed the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. This law decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. (See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94G, §§ 1 and following (2019).)
There may also be some exceptions to the following laws for medical marijuana possession and use. And, while not covered below, it is also a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana in Massachusetts.
The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act regulates the possession, production, and distribution of marijuana in the same way the state handles alcohol, for persons 21 years of age and older. Although marijuana may not be used in public, under the law:
Other aspects of the law include:
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94G, §§ 1 and following (2019).)
The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act provides for a range of penalties:
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94G, § 13 (2019).)
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 ch. 94C, § 34 (2019).)
It is illegal to knowingly cultivate marijuana plants, unless the activity falls within the small amount exceptions explained above. And only licensed retailers may legally sell marijuana in Massachusetts. Cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it are punished in the same way. 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 (more on that below).
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, § 32C (2019).)
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 ch. 94C, § 32E (2019).)
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 up to $5,000, up to two years in prison, or both. Selling drug paraphernalia to a child younger than 18 is punishable by at least three years (and up to five years) in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, or both. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, § 32I (2019).)
Under the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, it is not a crime for adults to furnish paraphernalia to anyone 21 years of age or older. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94G, § 8 (2019).)
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 Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana 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 ch. 64K, § 8 (2019).)
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, the law can change at any time. Only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse.