Is Cannabis Legal?

Is Cannabis Legal?



Cannabis is legal in Massachusetts for both medical and recreational use, following the approval of a ballot initiative in November 2016. Here is a summary of the key points regarding the legality of cannabis in the state:


Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 in November 2016 which legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. Under this law, adults are allowed to possess and use small amounts of cannabis use for personal use without a medical card. As of 2021, adults in Massachusetts are allowed to possess up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis in public and up to 10 ounces (283.5 grams) at their primary residence. Possessing amounts over these limits can still result in legal penalties.


Traveling Within Massachusetts: In Massachusetts, adults are legally allowed to possess and transport up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis in public. This means you can carry cannabis within the state as long as the quantity is within the legal possession limit. However, consuming cannabis in public places is strictly prohibited, so be mindful of where you choose to use it. If you are traveling within Massachusetts by car, it is essential to keep your cannabis securely stored in the trunk or a locked container, away from the driver and passengers. Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and can lead to serious consequences, so never consume cannabis while driving.


Currently, at the Federal level, despite innumerable efforts from activists, advocates, and medical professionals, cannabis remains illegal. Moreover, beyond that, despite THIRTY EIGHT states currently having legalized medicinal cannabis and TWENTY THREE states having sanctioned recreational cannabis, the federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This means that inter-state travel, whether by car, rail, boat, or plane with cannabis is illegal regardless of whether the cannabis originated in a legal state and/or is transiting to a state with that has legalized cannabis use.


So, in short, cannabis use is LEGAL in Massachusetts (as well as all surrounding New England states excepting New Hampshire) but cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. Fear not however, consuming cannabis privately, within the state of Massachusetts, is LEGAL for adults aged 21+.




Classification of cannabis within Schedule I has made the further development of cannabis oriented medical research exceedingly difficult within the United States, much to the dismay of numerous medical professionals. In fact, during debate on the Congressional Tax Act in 1937 then head of the American Medical Association, William Woodward, stated; “There are potentialities in the drug that should not be cut off by adverse legislation. The medical profession and pharmacologists should be left to develop use of this drug as they see fit”. 


Furthermore, in 1970, the Shaffer Commission, a bi-partisan working group created by President Nixon to examine the potential medical efficacy of cannabis alongside the possibility of legalization formally recommended the decriminalization of cannabis. Commission chair, and former Pennsylvania governor Raymond P. Shaffer then stated; No significant physical, biochemical, or mental abnormalities could be attributed solely to their marihuana smoking… No valid stereotype of a marihuana user or non-user can be drawn… Young people who choose to experiment with marihuana are fundamentally the same people, socially and psychologically, as those who use alcohol and tobacco…


Interestingly, international consensus on cannabis have moved more than rapidly than opinions at the Federal Level in the US. In 2021 the UN Commission on Drugs accepted a recommendation from the World Health Organization seeking to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 convention on Narcotic Drugs.

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