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Ryan asks: Is marijuana legal in Massachusetts?

Update:  My previous response was posted on February 9, 2011 (see below).  My new response is:

Yes, it is.  As of Thursday, December 15, 2016, persons who are 21 or older may legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside their homes, and up to 10 ounces of marijuana inside their homes.  They may also legally cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants within their homes for personal use.

There are restrictions.

You may not use marijuana in a public place.  The civil penalty is a maximum $100 fine.

If you have more than one ounce of marijuana in your home you must secure it with a lock.  Failure to do so is a civil violation.  The penalty is forfeiture of the marijuana and a maximum $100 fine.

If you have an open, partially consumed package of marijuana in your car, you must lock it in your trunk or glovebox or you can be charged with open container.

Selling marijuana is illegal without a retail license.  If you sell even one joint to a willing buyer, absent a retail license, you can get charged with distribution.  A first conviction for distributing marijuana carries a jail sentence of up to 2 years and a $500 – $5000 fine.   Subsequent convictions carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year with a maximum of 2 ½ years, and a $1000 – $10,000 fine.

You cannot legally cultivate marijuana plants in your home if they are visible from a public place, or outside of an area that is locked or protected by a security device.  The civil penalty is a maximum $300 fine and forfeiture of the marijuana.

There is a 12 plant limit per residence.  If you and your roommate are each growing 6 plants at home for your respective uses, that’s fine.  If a third roommate then grows one more plant on the premises, all of you could be charged with possession with intent to distribute a class D substance (marijuana).

If you grow more than 6 but not more than 12 marijuana plants for yourself at home, or possess more than 1 ounce but less than 2 ounces of marijuana outside of your home, you will be subject to a civil penalty of a maximum $100 fine and forfeiture of the marijuana.

The penalty for individuals between 18 and 21 who possess less than one ounce of marijuana is a maximum civil fine of $100 and forfeiture of the marijuana. The penalty for individuals under 18 is the same except that they are also required to complete a drug awareness program.

Anyone who is found with more than 2 ounces of marijuana outside his or her home will be subjected to the existing criminal penalties, which include up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.

My previous response (posted on February 9, 2011):

No, it isn’t.  But as of January 2, 2009, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana became a civil rather than a criminal offense.  The penalty is a $100 fine (which is comparable to the fine for some motor vehicle violations) and forfeiture of the marijuana.  The penalty for individuals under 18 is the same except that they are also required to complete a drug awareness program.

Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana is still a criminal offense, and can be punished by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.   It is also still a criminal offense to distribute marijuana in any amount.  A first conviction for distributing marijuana carries a jail sentence of up to 2 years and a $500 – $5000 fine.   Subsequent convictions carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year with a maximum of 2 ½ years, and a $1000 – $10,000 fine.

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