The Bay State certainly turned a new leaf after being the first state in the US to outlaw marijuana. It took Massachusetts marijuana laws almost a century before it softened up to weed when it finally decriminalized possession of small amounts in 2008. After that, the state closely followed in the footsteps of other pioneering cannabis states when it approved a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in the same year Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use. So it’s not surprising that in 2016, Massachusetts approved ballot measures to legalize recreational pot at the same time California, Nevada, and Maine did.
At present, Massachusetts continues to move forward with progressive cannabis laws and a burgeoning adult-use industry. It’s fairly obvious that the move has helped the state financially at the very least. In fact, recreational weed shops reported raking in around $420 million in 2019. The momentum from the first year of legalization just seems to build up for Massachusetts when it made another milestone in 2018 after it opened the first legal marijuana shops on East Coast. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts municipality of Northampton became the first in the state to stop assessing a 3% “community impact fee” on licensed marijuana cannabis businesses. Many are hoping that other communities will adopt this change as it will help lessen the financial burdens of the state’s marijuana businesses and benefit smaller capital-constrained businesses and social equity applicants.
This article was reviewed and updated for 2021.
- Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in Massachusetts
- History of marijuana in Massachusetts
- How to get a Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Card
- Buying seeds
- Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Massachusetts
- FAQs about growing marijuana in Massachusetts
Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in Massachusetts
Growing medical marijuana is completely legal in Question 3, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative. Meanwhile, recreational growing is legal under Question 4.
- Adults aged 21 and over may grow up to 6 plants for medical and recreational use. There is a limit of 12 plants per household even if there are more than 2 adults living there.
- Patients registered under the Massachusetts medical marijuana program and their designated caregivers may grow more than 6 marijuana plants only if they are have been granted a “hardship cultivation registration”.
- The plants may be grown at the patient’s or the caregiver’s residence, in a locked space away from public view.
- It is illegal to sell the marijuana you grow and harvest.
Patients and caregivers who have been awarded hardship cultivation registrations possess a “60-day supply” of marijuana, which is defined by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission as 10 ounces or equivalent in other forms.
This was last updated in June 2020. We will be updating this guide with new developments that may come out.
Punishments for Violating Massachusetts Home Grow Laws
Here’s a list of what you should not do when cultivating weed under Massachusetts marijuana laws:
- Anyone who grows in excess of 6 but not more than 12 plants without a hardship cultivation registration or is not a registered marijuana business will face a fine of $100 with the forfeiture of the marijuana.
- Meanwhile, anyone below 21 to 18 who is not a registered medical marijuana patient that commits this offense will have to complete a drug awareness program in addition to the fine. Offenders below 18 to 17 will have their parents and legal guardians notified and those below 17 may even face delinquency charges if they fail to complete the drug awareness program 1 year after the offense.
- You’ll get a $300 fine if your plants are still publicly visible.
It is quite odd to see how light the penalties are compared to other pro-weed states and that the penalty for publicly visible plants is higher than growing in excess of the allowed limit. This is not necessarily a bad thing and there’s really no good reason to change it either.
History of marijuana in Massachusetts
It is still unclear whether it was in 1911 or 1914 when Massachusetts became the first state to restrict prohibited on a state level the sale of cannabis or “Indian hemp” without a prescription. However, it made up for it, albeit almost a century later, when it decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana through the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative in 2008. Under this initiative, anything less than one ounce only gets a penalty of $100 without the possessor being reported to the state’s criminal history board. Minor offenders will only have to notify their parents, take a drug awareness program, and do 10 hours of community service.
The road to legalization continued in 2012 when Question 3, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, won by 63%. This effectively eliminated criminal and civil penalties for possessions and allowed card-carrying patients the use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis.
In November 2016, Massachusetts voters finally approved Question 4, an initiative that made recreational cannabis legal in the state. This allowed adults to buy and carry up to one ounce at a time and legally keep up to 10 ounces or whatever amount they are able to harvest from their own plants. However, carrying more than 1 oz can put you in prison for up to 6 months and/or a $500 fine. Needless to say, consuming in public, DUI, and any form of selling without a license, especially to minors are still very much illegal.
How to get a Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Card
Since all adult residents are already allowed to buy and grow a fairly sufficient amount of recreational pot, what is the use of applying as a patient in Massachusetts’ medical marijuana program? Here are the reasons why:
- Patients aged 18 are allowed to use medical marijuana under the program.
- Qualifying patients can be granted a “hardship cultivation registration” that will allow them to maintain a 60-day supply of marijuana (10 ounces). This may allow the patient or caregiver to grow more than 6 plants if needed.
- Medical marijuana is also not subject to tax.
How to apply as a patient
Patients can easily apply online but they can also send in their application documents via mail. You’ll need to secure a bunch of documents but the CCC provides very detailed instructions on their website to help make things easier for first-time applicants. Here’s a list of the requirements you need to prepare before logging onto the program’s Virtual Gateway portal.
- Certification from your healthcare provider.
- Passport photo
- Proof of verified financial hardship. This can be any of the following:
- Official MassHealth card, or acceptance letter/redetermination letter for the current year
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) statement for the current year
- SSI benefit verification letter for the current year (SSDI does not qualify)
- State or Federal tax return for this or last year, including all the
- One valid ID. This can be any of the following:
- Massachusetts driver’s license
- State ID card with your photo
- U.S. passport or U.S. military ID, with another document proof that shows your current address. This can be any of the following:
- Utility bill less than 60 days old.
- Current Massachusetts motor vehicle registration card.
- Tuition bill with a due date of less than 6 months ago.
- Car insurance policy or bill dated less than 60 days old
- Home mortgage, lease or loan contracts dated within 6 months of date of application.
- Certified U.S. Marriage Certificate dated within the past 6 months;
- Property tax or excise tax bill for the current year.
- First-class mail dated less than 60 days old from any federal or state agency.
- Current Massachusetts-issued Professional License.
Applicants have to pay a $50 registration/annual renewal fee and if applying for Hardship Cultivation, $100. A replacement ID costs $10.
How to apply as a caregiver
Those who wish to apply as caregivers under Massachusetts marijuana laws must be an adult aged 21 and over and should not be the registered qualifying patient’s certifying physician. Here are the requirements you’ll need to register as a caregiver:
- The PIN from the registered patient
- A copy of a valid ID. This is the same ID requirements required from applying patients.
- A passport photo.
Likewise, caregivers may also complete their registration online or submit their requirements by mail.
There’s nothing in Massachusetts marijuana laws on the matter of seeds for individual home growers. But since its ok to give up to an ounce of marijuana, most people prefer to ask for cuttings or seeds from friends. If this seems limited to you and you want more options in terms of strains, why not buy seeds online?
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Massachusetts
How does Massachusetts’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about growing marijuana in Massachusetts
Yes, it is legal to recreational cannabis at home in Massachusetts.
The law allows adults aged 21 and over to grow up to 6 mature (flowering) plants and only up to 12 mature ones per household, regardless of the number of adults living there.
Yes, it is legal to grow medical cannabis at home in Massachusetts.
The cultivation limit is for medical and recreational cultivation is the same, but those who have been granted a “hardship cultivation registration” may grow an “adequate supply” that can be more than 6 plants per patient.
In a locked place on any property as long as the grower has the consent of the property owner in writing. The plants should be kept away from public view.
You need to be at least 21 years old or a registered patient at least 18 years old to be able to legally grow marijuana in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts marijuana laws are some of the most relaxed and generous in the country, even when compared to other pro-cannabis states. Although the penalties may not be as harsh, violating the state’s pot laws may still land you in serious trouble. Here are some no-brainer rules that you need to keep in mind if you want to grow and use pot in the Bay State:
- Keep your weed at home, out of sight and out of reach of minors.
- You can give up to an ounce but never sell.
- Don’t consume in public and never carry anywhere near school zones.
- Never smoke and drive or even carry marijuana in an open container in your vehicle.