What to know about legal marijuana in Massachusetts

As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts and parts of the new law will take effect.


People in Massachusetts are allowed to possess and grow at home small amounts of marijuana in a few aspects.

Simple possession of marijuana outside primary residence: under 1 ounce.

A person 21 or older may legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana outside his or her home. Marijuana concentrates are also legal but in quantities 5 grams or less. This amount was already decriminalized in Massachusetts, but now it will be "fully legalized."

"It will no longer be appropriate for police to initiate a threshold inquiry-based merely on a reasonable belief that a person possesses a small quantity of marijuana," wrote Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett in a letter to police departments.

For those ages 18 to 21, possessing up to 1 ounce still remains decriminalized, but not legalized.

For those under 18 years old, possession of 1 ounce or less is punishable with a civil citation and drug education program.

Simple possession of marijuana outside primary residence: 1 to 2 ounces

For those 21 and older, possessing more than 1 ounce but less than 2 ounces outside the home is a civil violation. The penalty is not more than $100. If the person had 1.5 ounces, the police officer could seize the .5 ounce.

For those under 21, possession of any quantity over 1 ounce is a criminal offense. Juveniles could face delinquency proceedings.

Possession offenses outside primary residence: more than 2 ounces

Any person of any age who is found with more than 2 ounces of marijuana outside his or her home will be subjected to the existing criminal penalties. The only exception is for a person working for a lawful recreational or medical establishment.

Schools and governments

Even though 1 ounce or less is now legalized for adults 21 and older, no quantity is legal on the grounds of a public or private preschool or K-12 school or on the grounds of a correctional facility.

For those 21 or older found with marijuana in violation will face a civil penalty. Those under 21 will face a civil citation.

Distribution or possession with the intent to distribute to a prisoner remains a felony offense.

State and local governments have the authority to prohibit marijuana possession within their buildings.

Public consumption

All public consumption of marijuana is now illegal, except for medical marijuana.

Possession of marijuana inside primary residence

Question 4 allows people over the age of 21 to have up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their primary residence. The law states that a person can only claim one primary residence at a time.

Any quantity of marijuana over 1 ounce must be kept under "lock and key." The penalty for violation is a $100 fine and forfeiture of the marijuana.

Having marijuana in the home with intent to sell remains a crime.

Growing marijuana

A single person is now allowed to have up to six marijuana plants, with no more than 12 in a home where multiple people are engaged in cultivation.

If a single person had more than six plants but less than 12, there is a civil penalty of $100. A person who grows more than 12 plants is subject to criminal prosecution, assuming the grower does not have a cultivator license.

Growing marijuana of any quantity in a rented storage area, workplace or any place besides the "primary residence" remains a criminal offense unless you have a cultivator license.

People without licenses can only grow marijuana for personal use and gifting.

Any plants or growing materials must not be visible from a public place and plants must be secured with a lock or other device. A violation would result in a fine of $3,000 and forfeiture of the marijuana.

Distribution offenses

Gifting marijuana for those without a license is only legal for quantities under 1 ounce. Any reciprocal “gifts” of money or items of value is a criminal act.

Unless you have a license, all of the following are criminal offenses:

  • Giving or selling marijuana to any person under 21
  • Selling marijuana to any person
  • Gifting more than 1 ounce to any person

Sale of marijuana-related paraphernalia

The sale of any bongs, pipes or hydroponic equipment to people over the age of 21 is now legal.

Sale of such paraphernalia to people between 18 and 21 will remain a misdemeanor. Sales to those under 18 will remain a felony. Someone under 21 who purchases or attempts to purchase marijuana drug paraphernalia can be subjected to a fine of $100 and may be required to complete a drug awareness program.

Possession of marijuana paraphernalia remains noncriminal.

Operating under the influence of marijuana

This was illegal before the passage of Question 4 and will remain so. Officers are allowed to seize evidence of marijuana consumption in cars.