UPDATE — 12/28, 5:41 p.m. EST: The Massachusetts state legislature voted Wednesday to delay the issuance of licenses for retail marijuana sales until July 2018, after voters approved a ballot measure in November for legal commercial purchase of the drug to commence six months earlier in January of that year.
Recreational use and personal cultivation of cannabis on private property was officially legalized in the state Dec. 15.
“This short delay will allow the necessary time for the legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law,” Democratic Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg said in a statement. “Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recreational marijuana law in the country.”
Massachusetts has become the first state on the East Coast to legalize recreational marijuana use, as residents voted on the ballot question in November, and parts of the new law officially went into effect on Thursday.
Under the new code, Bay Staters are legally allowed to grow and use cannabis without a medical card. The new law stipulates one must be at least 21 years of age, mandates the number of ounces a person can have in their home, as well as in public. Smoking the drug in public is still prohibited.
Marijuana activists were thrilled when the ballot initiative, known as Question 4, passed.
“It represents the triumph of persistence and of citizen activism over legislative intransigence, “ said advocate Dick Evans.
A number of states across the U.S. voted to relaxed marijuana laws on Nov. 8, or made more exceptions for medical use. However, Massachusetts joined an elite club — only seven other states have legal recreational use.
The state is also looking at tapping into the revenue stream created by marijuana. In 2018, cannabis shops are expected to be able to sell the drug, meaning the state of Massachusetts will also be able to tax the product.
However, not everyone is happy with the new law. The Governor of Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker, does not support legalization, but said he will respect the will of the people. The state legislature has also been talking about delaying parts of the new law.
“We’ve had discussions about delaying some of the dates to give us more time to fine-tune the bill and, in the next few weeks, we have to make final decisions on that,” Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said.
For now, however, the residents of Massachusetts can enjoy their newfound freedom.
[ABC News] [Hartford Courant] [CBS Boston] [Boston Globe] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy AP via Politico]