BY ADAM SUTTON
MASSACHUSETTS HAS COME a long way with Marijuana law after being the first to ban “Indian Hemp” on a state level in 1911. Since then, in 2008, Massachusetts decriminalized the possession of one ounce or less making it a ticket-able offense. I’ve yet to know anyone that was issued that ticket. In 2012, Massachusetts passed An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana, which allowed a patient with physician’s recommendation to possess a 60 day supply of marijuana and/or marijuana concentrates. Under the medical law, patients and caregivers in Massachusetts saw provisions for the first time allowing legal cultivation. In 2016, 54 percent of Massachusetts residents voted yes on question 4 legalizing recreational marijuana for adults over 21. Under the new law, entitled The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, adults are able to cultivate 6 plants person up to a total of 12 per household.
Experts expect a booming marijuana industry in Massachusetts that will continue to grow for years. Reports released by marijuana data mining and investment firms ArcView Market Research and New Frontier expect revenues from the sale of legal recreational marijuana to be over 300 million dollars in 2018. By 2020, it is expected that the market in Massachusetts will be worth 1.1 billion dollars. In comparison, the sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado
was 996 million dollars last year bringing the state around 135 million dollars in taxes and fees. The state is also expected to become an epicenter of pot tourism in the eastern US. These numbers do not consider the revenue created by ancillary businesses such as smoking/vaping accessories and cultivation supplies and equipment.
So let’s talk marijuana cultivation in Massachusetts as it pertains to commercial grows and the two legal avenues for home cultivation: medical law and recreational law. Currently the only operating commercial grows in Massachusetts do so under the medical law. Recreational grows are currently being licensed and are expected to start opening in 2018. As of Oct 31, 2017, there were 15 registered medical dispensaries in the commonwealth operating with their own cultivation centers providing the supply of cannabis. With roughly 42 thousand registered patients and 4,500 caregivers what happens if it is impossible to visit and/or purchase medicine from one of those 15 operating dispensaries?
Under the medical law, chapter 369 allows patients to register for a ‘hardship’ cultivation waiver. This allows the patient or the patient’s designated caregiver to grow marijuana at home for the patient’s medical use. These ‘hardship’ waivers are issued if the patient is unable to access a state-authorized dispensary or if they can confirm a “financial hardship” preventing them from purchasing medicine from a licensed dispensary. Patients or caregivers are allowed to cultivate enough marijuana to supply the patients medicinal need for 60 days. What is a 60 day supply? The Massachusetts Department of Public Health defines a 60 day supply as 10 ounces of flower or 1.5 ounce of concentrate unless the prescribing physician recommends more. Massachusetts law has not set a certain plant number under medical law. Cultivation must be in an enclosed and locked area, such as indoors or in a greenhouse, that is not viewable from the street and not accessible to people under 21 years of age. A caregiver must be over the age of 21, registered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and not be the patient’s certifying physician.
As of December 15, 2016 legal recreational marijuana became the law of the land in Massachusetts. Under the current law adults over the age of 21 are allowed to cultivate 6 plants per person with the maximum number per household set at 12. Growers are allowed to keep all marijuana produced which would far exceed the designated 10 ounces of flower allowed to be kept at home under the recreational legalization law. As with medical hardship cultivation, this must occur in a locked and secured location, that is inaccessible to persons under the age of 21,
Spectators gawk at the 100-foot joint at The Harvest Cup, held this past December in Worcester. MA
and is out of public view. The new law has set in motion a surge of do-it-yourself cannabis users and enthusiasts that want to grow their own pot at home in Massachusetts.
As with home brewing, Massachusetts grow-your-own enthusiasts, growing their 6-12 plants, and medical hardship cultivators are leaning towards quality and boutique-style cannabis. What does that mean? It means that growers are tending to choose higher quality growing supplies such as organic growing mediums and nutrients. When you ask a new grower in Massachusetts how they would prefer to cultivate one almost always hear a response that includes the word “organic.” Massachusetts is on a path towards a mainly connoisseur cannabis market.
Whether you are a medical patient growing your own medicine at home, a recreational grower, or you plan on shopping the many new dispensaries set to open this year, you can expect a continually growing marijuana industry in Massachusetts. Advances in cultivation materials and technology will continue to evolve nationwide. Quality will continue to improve as growers fine-tune their skills and a free-market eliminates substandard product. After 106 years since initial prohibition, medical and legal marijuana are staples of day to day life in the Bay State.