Cannabis activists were celebrating Thursday while a new voter-approved law became effective in Massachusetts. The new law allows individuals over the age of 21 to possess, cultivate and use limited quantities of recreational marijuana. Licensed retailers in Massachusetts will still be waiting at least another year before they will be able to legally sell cannabis. Various supporters of legalization are skeptical over whether Massachusetts lawmakers may seek to change or delay the law’s full implementation in the coming months.
Law enforcement officials are confused as per what exactly is allowable under the law and they cautioned the public of a potential increase in people driving under the influence of marijuana. Keith Saunders; holding a container with what he claimed to be a little less than an ounce of marijuana flower, stated “yesterday this would have been a $100 fine.” Saunders, a board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), celebrated the new law outside the historic Massachusetts Statehouse along with other activists.
“Ultimately, we are moving toward taking the existing marijuana market in Massachusetts and bringing it above board,” he said.
Massachusetts is the only East side state where recreational cannabis is legal. Maine will soon follow if a recount upholds passage of a ballot measure there. Previously Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska legalized recreational marijuana and last month, voters in California and Nevada approved ballot measures as well. Adults can have up to an ounce of marijuana on them, outside their home, In Massachusetts. They can possess up to 10 ounces inside the home as well as cultivate a dozen pot plants per household. After spending nearly 30 years advocating for more lenient marijuana laws; Bill Downing admits to a mix of satisfaction and trepidation.
“I am both celebrating and worrying that the law might not be implemented properly,” says Downing, member liaison for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.
His skepticism is a result of public statements made by Democratic legislative leaders and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker promising a review and possible changes to the law. A law which passed by over 240,000 votes out of nearly 3.8 million votes cast.
“It’s legal. I just hope everyone plays by the rules,” Baker stated Thursday.
Although the governor strongly opposed legalization; he pledged once again, that the will of the voters will be respected. He then went on to cite “ambiguities” in the law and said legitimate concerns were raised concerning public health and safety. Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett; sent a memo to police departments in Massachusetts on Wednesday, saying the implementation of recreational pot “will create a complex web of different rules” that law enforcement must navigate.
“Within certain limits, the new law authorizes some conduct that had previously been prohibited. Beyond those limits, however, possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana remain illegal under state law,” wrote Bennett.
Cannabis activists dismissed critics who were saying legalization will lead to many social and public safety issues.
“The worst you could do is maybe listen to Pink Floyd for two hours rather than one hour,” joked a man playing the guitar as he serenaded supporters in front of the state Capitol building.