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Since Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question legalizing recreational use of marijuana in 2016, the State legislature has been working on rewriting the marijuana laws.  A major amendment was signed into law on July 28, 2017.  The legislation is called “An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana.” (Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017)  The new law creates the Cannabis Advisory Board and Cannabis Control Commission, and it specifies the appointment of members, their duties, and the decision making process.  The purpose of the Advisory Board is to make recommendations to the Commission about the regulation and taxation of marijuana.  Members of the Board are not state employees; however, the Commission is designated as a state agency.  The Commission will oversee the licensing of marijuana establishments and determine the “potency or dosing limitations of edible marijuana products sold by licensees.”  Special regulations will be promulgated by the Commission for Dukes and Nantucket counties.

In terms of cities and towns, the law does not “preclude a municipality from establishing zoning by-laws or ordinances which allow commercial marijuana growing and cultivation on land used for commercial agriculture, aquaculture, floriculture, or horticulture.”  If a municipality accepts Mass. General Laws chapter 64N sec. 3 as amended by this law,  it “may impose a local sales tax upon sale or transfer of marijuana or marijuana products by a marijuana retailer operating within the city or town … at a rate not greater than 3 per cent of the total sales price …”  This would be in addition to the 17 percent state tax.

The Massachusetts General Laws were further amended by adding Chapter 94I which covers the medical use of marijuana.  Previously medical marijuana was overseen by the Department of Public Health, but now the Cannabis Control Commission will be responsible for it.  The new chapter defines certain terms such as “debilitating medical condition” and “personal caregiver” and specifies that “no person shall be arrested or prosecuted for any criminal offense solely for being in the presence of medical use marijuana.”  Under this statute health insurance providers are not required to reimburse patients for the use of medical marijuana.  For an earlier law regarding medical use of marijuana, see chapter 369 of the Acts of 2012.

For other information on the topic, see the medical marijuana section on our Massachusetts law about page on medical prescriptions and our Massachusetts law about page on marijuana possession.

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