If I already have a medical marijuana recommendation from another state, can I use it to buy legal weed in Massachusetts?
Nope. You have to be registered IN Massachusetts in order to legally purchase medical marijuana in the state. However, state laws include a clause that allows patients visiting Massachusetts from other states to possess their own medical marijuana while in Massachusetts.
Can I take the weed that I buy in Massachusetts to another state?
If you’re planning to stock up in Massachusetts and then take a road trip, beware. If you travel across state lines, it’s possible that you could be charged with a federal felony -- even if you’re legally registered as someone who qualifies to use medical marijuana in Massachusetts.
Some states have reciprocity with others, which might honor another state’s medical marijuana prescriptions. Even so, taking marijuana across state lines is still illegal, and it would be smart to register with the state you’re visiting to purchase any marijuana you need from a dispensary in that state.
What about transporting it within the state? Can I do that?
You can only legally transport marijuana if you yourself are a registered medical marijuana patient, caregiver, or work for a registered marijuana dispensary. Otherwise, transporting marijuana (in any amount) is still illegal in Massachusetts. To be able to legally transport it, all you need is your medicinal marijuana ID card. Then -- and only then -- can you carry the legal amount that your doctor has prescribed you for your 60-day supply. That means you can carry up to 10 ounces of marijuana legally, unless your doctor has prescribed you more.
If you’re not the one buying or transporting marijuana, but you’re a registered caregiver, you’re allowed to bring a patient to and from a dispensary or purchase it and take it to them. People who work at dispensaries are allowed to transport marijuana to other dispensaries and to caregivers or registered patients as well.
What does the cannabis industry look like in Massachusetts now that both recreational and medical marijuana are legal?
The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), the five-member panel in charge of regulating Massachusetts’ marijuana industry, is the entity in charge of deciding which dispensaries get licenses, and what kinds of marijuana businesses can operate in the state. It’s been approving new shops on a rolling basis since weed was legalized. There are currently 15 dispensaries open in the state, but that number could easily double in the next few years. While some have speculated that Massachusetts may also become the first state to issue social use licenses, that remains to be seen.
In addition to dispensaries, some restaurants and cafes boast weed-infused menu items. Someday, depending on how the laws pan out, there could even be movie theaters that sell pot brownies, or pot popcorn, but we're not there yet. There is, however, a new kind of “pot-leisure” economy that has also sprouted up since recreational weed was legalized, with businesses like weed-enhanced yoga classes and cannabis cafes and lounges making their mark on the New England map. There’s even a weed-infused fine dining experience, for those who want to feel truly high class -- if you know what we mean.
Still, the ways people can legally consume the drug is limited, and the CCC has ongoing studies on ways to address concerns over impaired driving and underage access, among other issues. Nonetheless, Smith said, the CCC hasn’t totally slowed down the expansion of a green state. Legalization has so far proven lucrative in places like Northampton -- a town with less than 29,000 residents -- having seen over $700,000 in revenue from recreational marijuana sales since dispensaries opened up shop.
And there's plenty of room to expand. Tim Keogh, the president of the board at Bask Cannabis in Fairhaven, sees a thriving marketplace for both medical and recreational dispensaries -- one poised to expand. He explained that Massachusetts could end up with even more dispensaries than Colorado thanks to the state's population density. Massachusetts is much smaller geographically and has 20% more people than Colorado crammed into it. Colorado has just over 3,000 licensed marijuana businesses, total -- including growers, processors, and sellers spread out across the state. Massachusetts' population of 6.86 million and proximity to bigger cities like New York would open the floodgates for much higher demand, by comparison. “There’s 50 million people with a four-hour drive time [to Massachusetts],” Keogh told us. "That’s what makes it, in my opinion, one of the most attractive markets to operate in, and I think it will grow.”
Even so, Smith said, the legality of cannabis hasn’t erased ethical concerns surrounding the drug. She said the industry should take cues from initiatives like The Hood Incubator, and become more diverse “primarily by hiring more people of color and women of color, and not just in the retail and growing side but in management as well.” She also pointed out that while a fair number of dispensaries are owned by big companies, the weed business could create opportunities for locally owned shops.
Massachusetts is growing more marijuana-friendly every day, with festivals like Extravaganja at large, and according to Smith, doctors are even becoming more easygoing about their views on the drug’s truly medicinal qualities.
“The attitude has definitely changed," she said. "It’s way more welcoming and accepting, and there aren’t as many ‘pothead’ jokes anymore.”
*Smith's name has been changed due to a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from speaking on the record about her job.