Legislation History

Voters approved the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative, or Question 3, in November 2012. Question 3 established the Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana Program, initially administered by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), to regulate medical marijuana across the Commonwealth.


The Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or Question 4, passed by voters in November 2016, legalized adult use and created the Cannabis Control Commission (CNB) to regulate marijuana statewide.


Adult-use cannabis sales were scheduled to begin as early as July 1, 2018; however, the Cannabis Control Commission has yet to authorize a single marijuana retailer to begin selling adult-use cannabis. As of October 4, 2018, two adult-use marijuana shops have received final licenses in Leicester and Northampton, but additional steps need to be taken before adult-use sales can begin from these locations. Dozens of other adult-use licenses are awaiting final approval from the Cannabis Control Commission.


Several medical dispensaries will be authorized to sell adult-use marijuana, though the Cannabis Control Commission has undertaken several measures to ensure that registered patients continue to have access to medical marijuana.


Adults 21 and older may purchase, possess, and consume cannabis in Massachusetts thanks to voter approval of Question 4 in 2018. Before that time, only those with qualifying conditions were able to consume medical marijuana. While the Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana Program is currently administered by the Department of Public Health, oversight of this program will transfer to the Cannabis Control Commission by December 31, 2018. The transfer is a result of voters’ approval of Question 4 in November 2016.

Where is Safe to Purchase?

Medical Marijuana

Registered patients have access to consume, possess, and grow cannabis, as well as purchase a 60-day supply of medical cannabis from any state-licensed dispensary. There are medical marijuana delivery services available, and a designated personal caregiver may transport medical cannabis from a licensed dispensary or grow site to a registered patient. Medical marijuana patients are not permitted to divert cannabis to others. Medical cannabis in Massachusetts remains untaxed.


Adults ages 21 and older will be able to purchase cannabis from licensed marijuana retailers. Adult-use cannabis will be subject to a 6.25% sales tax, a 10.75% state excise tax, and a potential municipal tax of up to three (3) percent. As such, most adult-use consumers could encounter a total tax rate of about 20 percent.


Edibles have limits of five (5) mg of THC per dose. All marijuana and marijuana products are subjected to comprehensive state-mandated labeling requirements, which include information on THC content and a warning that the product is “not safe for kids.”

Where is it Safe to Consume?

Cannabis can be consumed on private property, but marijuana products cannot be smoked, eaten, or vaped in public. Furthermore, cannabis products cannot be smoked where tobacco smoking is prohibited. Adult-use consumers, as well as registered patients and their caregivers, can carry cannabis in their vehicles as long as it is in a sealed container.


Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal. Neither drivers nor passengers may consume marijuana in a vehicle. There are no premises approved for onsite consumption; however, the CNB plans to revisit this topic in 2019.


The CNB offers a complete fact sheet on adult consumption in Massachusetts.


The DPH has defined a 60-day supply as

  • 10 ounces, or 283.5 grams, of dry flower; or
  • 1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams, of cannabis concentrates or resin


Adults 21 and older, as well as patients and their caregivers, are allowed to possess 10 ounces, or 283.5 grams, of cannabis inside their homes, and less than one ounce (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, in public. Question 4 also allows adults to grow up to six (6) cannabis plants per person and up to twelve (12) cannabis plants per household in their homes.


Qualifying patients may apply for hardship registration if they wish to cultivate their own cannabis, or have a caregiver grow on their behalf. The DPH has not specified a maximum number of plants that may be grown. However, there should be no more than what is necessary to meet the patient’s individual needs based upon a certified physician’s recommendation. Patients who opt for personal cultivation cannot purchase cannabis from a licensed dispensary.


While medical and adult-use cannabis are now legal in Massachusetts, both patients and consumers still face penalties for violating what is allowable under state law. Specifically, public consumption of cannabis will result in a fine of $100, and possessing an open container of cannabis in a car will result in a fine of $500.

How Old Do I Need
to Be to Consume?
Possession Limit
for Flower
1 oz in public, 10 oz at home
60 day supply
Possession Limit
for Concentrates
1 oz in public, 1.5 oz at home
60 day supply

Medical Marijuana Registry

Qualified patients can register with the Medical Use of Marijuana Program to access cannabis for medical use. Patients must meet certain eligibility requirements, and receive certification from a health-care provider before they can receive their program certification and access to the registry. Medical marijuana program registration must be renewed annually by both patients and caregivers. Patients must also maintain active certifications from both their original health-care provider and the medical marijuana program.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Other conditions that severely limit one or more major life functions
  • Any other condition for which a doctor has determined the patient’s major life functions are negatively affected

Application Process

  1. Obtain a physician’s certification that confirms the patient suffers from at least one qualifying medical condition.
  2. Once certified, health care providers will create a personal identification number (PIN) to register with the program.
  3. Provide a valid state-issued identification card to establish proof of Massachusetts residency, as well as a recent photo that conforms to registration guidelines.
  4. Pay $50 for a registration card or submit proof of verified financial hardship.

Caregiver Requirements

Registered patients who require assistance obtaining or using medical marijuana may designate a primary caregiver. Prospective personal caregivers must first register with the medical marijuana program. Caregivers must be at least 21 years old and may only provide care for one (1) patient. An employee of a hospice, nursing, or medical facility; or a visiting nurse, personal care attendant, or home health aide providing care to a qualifying patient, may serve as a designated caregiver, including to patients younger than 18 as a second caregiver.

Application Process

  1. Obtain the patient’s PIN via their current medical marijuana program portal account.
  2. Complete the program application.
  3. Provide a valid state-issued identification card to establish proof of Massachusetts residency, as well as a recent photo that conforms to registration guidelines.
  4. Pay $50 for a registration card, which is required for caregivers.

Lab Testing

The DPH requires that all cannabis harvested for commercial and medical use, as well as all marijuana products, be tested for safety, quality control, and potency. Certified labs must test for the following:

  • Cannabinoid profile and potency
  • Fungal mycotoxins
  • Heavy metals
  • Microbiological contaminants
  • Pesticides
  • Plant growth regulators
  • Residual solvents

The DPH offers detailed lab testing notes.


The State of Massachusetts does not allow reciprocity for medical marijuana, but adults 21 and older may purchase recreational products.

Home Cultivation

Any individual above 21 years of age may grow up to six (6) plants per person or up to twelve (12) plants per household in their home. The CNB offers guidelines on growing cannabis at home in compliance with the law.


Medical marijuana patients ages 18-20 are also permitted to grow up to six (6) plants in their home. For more than two adults 21 and older, six (6) plants are permitted.


Prospective medical marijuana facilities must complete an application for licensing through the Department of Public Health. Prospective adult-use cannabis facilities must complete an application for licensing through the CNB.


The CNB provides guidance for businesses, particularly around the application and certification process.


The application and annual license fees vary depending on the type of business.

  • 11 discrete tiers of indoor/outdoor cultivator licenses
  • Craft marijuana cooperative
  • Microbusiness
  • Manufacturing
  • Independent testing laboratory
  • Storefront retail
  • Third-party transporter
  • Existing licensee transporter
  • Research laboratory


While Massachusetts law authorizes licensing for adult-use delivery services and social consumption facilities, the CNB decided to delay developing regulations for these licensing categories in February 2018. The CNB will reconsider this issue in late 2018/early 2019.


This page was last updated on October 8, 2018.