Massachusetts law about marijuana possession

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on marijuana possession law.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

St.2017, c.55 An Act to ensure safe access to marijuana
This law outlines the ability of cities and towns to exercise local control to ban or limit the development of marijuana establishments, sets the special excise tax on adult use marijuana sales to 10.75%, and includes a local option for cities and towns to add a 3% tax on top of the combined 17% between sales and the marijuana specific excise tax.

MGL c.10, §§76-77 Cannabis Control Board and Advisory Board

MGL c.64N Marijuana tax

MGL c.94C Controlled substances act. 
Includes penalties for other drugs, trafficking or possession of larger quantities of marijuana.

MGL c.94G. The regulation and taxation of marijuana act
Effective December 15, 2016, adults may possess and use marijuana. After required licensing procedures, retail marijuana stores will be permitted to open beginning in July 2018.

Massachusetts regulations and administrative decisions

830 CMR 64N Marijuana retail taxes

935 CMR 500 Adult use of marijuana

Attorney General Municipal Law Unit Decision 8948, June 22, 2018. Approved Mansfield town meeting article "to extend the temporary moratorium to prohibit the use of land or structures for recreational marijuana establishments through June 30, 2019." For more information, see AG Maura Healey’s ruling could slow Mass. marijuana industry, Boston Globe, June 24, 2018. "Attorney General Maura Healey is giving cities and towns more power to slow down the recreational marijuana industry, ruling that local officials can unilaterally prohibit cannabis companies for another year without polling residents."

Federal laws

21 USC §§ 801-971 Drug abuse prevention and control

18 USC  § 922(g)(3) prohibits any person who uses marijuana from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition.

Selected case law

Comm. v. Cruz, 459 Mass. 459 (2011). "[T]here was no basis on which the police could order the defendant out of the vehicle without at least some other additional fact beyond the mere odor of burnt marijuana... in light of the enactment of G. L. c. 94C, §§ 32L-32N ,..., which decriminalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana."

Commonwealth v. Gerhardt, 477 Mass. 775 (2017)
"[T]here is as yet no scientific agreement on whether, and, if so, to what extent, [field sobriety] tests are indicative of marijuana intoxication...Neither a police officer nor a lay witness who has not been qualified as an expert may offer an opinion as to whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana." A police officer may testify, however, about his or her observations, including observations of the defendant's performance on requested behaviors. Includes new Model Jury Instruction Regarding Roadside Assessments for Use in Prosecutions for Operating Under the Influence of Marijuana.

Comm. v. Keefner, 461 Mass. 507 (2012). The law which "decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, did not repeal the offense of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of G. L. c.94C, § 32C (a), where the amount of marijuana possessed is one ounce or less."

Comm. v. Richardson, 479 Mass. 344 (2018)
Addresses the prosecution of a person for trafficking in marijuana where that person was legally permitted to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Includes new model jury instructions

Comm. v. Rodriguez, 472 Mass. 767 (2015). The mere odor of burnt marijuana is insufficient cause to stop a motor vehicle.

Web sources

Cannabis Control Commission Guidance Documents. Includes:


Like alcohol, you cannot have an open container of adult-use marijuana or marijuana products in the passenger area of your car while on the road or at a place where the public has access.

Frequently Asked Questions about Recreational Marijuana, Cannabis Control Commission
Includes basic information about the Mass. recreational marijuana law, MGL c.94G.

Marijuana retail taxes, Dept. of Revenue
Learn how to request a Certificate of Good Standing to complete the license registration process with the Cannabis Control Commission. You can also learn how to register with MassTaxConnect, file a tax return and pay taxes on the sale of adult use marijuana. File and pay other business-related taxes through MassTaxConnect, including withholding and sales tax.

Open letter to all Federal firearms licensees, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 21, 2011.
"any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition."

State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues, Congressional Research Service, 2014
Explores the apparent conflict between federal and state drug laws in light of legalization in Colorado and Washington for small amounts of recreational marijuana



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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