What is Medical Marijuana?

While recreational marijuana has only been legal in Massachusetts since 2017, medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2013.

Over the years, the laws have changed, allowing people greater access to marijuana products than ever before. For example, people are now allowed to grow both recreational and medical marijuana, up to a certain amount and under certain conditions.

There are a lot of rules and regulations with marijuana in Massachusetts. Fortunately, we are here to break down the law and answer some frequently asked questions. At The Law Office of William J. Barabino, we are committed to keeping you up to date on the latest developments in criminal law.

What is medical use marijuana?

Medical use marijuana (or just “medical marijuana”) is marijuana sold by a medical marijuana treatment center (also called a dispensary) to people who need marijuana for medical reasons.

Businesses with a medical use of marijuana license are allowed to cultivate, process and distribute marijuana to people with a registration card. A registration card is special type of identification used to show that a person’s doctor has prescribed them marijuana for medical reasons. It is different from the license you need to obtain if you want to open up a dispensary. You need a registration card before you can legally obtain medical marijuana in Massachusetts.

What is the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana?

The main difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana has to do with the reasons the marijuana is smoked. Medical marijuana is to alleviate what are called debilitating conditions (like cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis) while recreational marijuana is typically used to obtain a high.

Additionally, there is a chemical compound in all marijuana that makes people high called THC. This substance is usually more present in recreational marijuana than medical marijuana. This means people who smoke recreational marijuana often get more high than people who take marijuana for medical reasons.

How can I get a medical marijuana registration card?

If you want to obtain a registration card, first you need to confirm with your doctor that you qualify. One of the ways you qualify is by having certain medical conditions. Some of these qualifying conditions include:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

Next, you need your doctor to recommend you for medical marijuana. They formally recommend you by completing and submitting a special electronic certification. After they certify you, you must apply for your registration card online.

If your application is approved, you will receive your card in the mail. With this card, you are now allowed to visit a dispensary and begin purchasing medical marijuana.

Am I allowed to grow marijuana myself in Massachusetts?

Yes, in Massachusetts people are allowed to grow both medical and recreational marijuana for themselves, but only up to certain amounts and under certain conditions.

With recreational marijuana, you can grow up to six plants in your home and up to 12 plants for other people.

With medical marijuana, the limit is defined a little differently. In Massachusetts, a single person is allowed to grow a maximum of a sixty-day supply, which is typically considered to be ten ounces. This sixty-day supply limit is set in stone, but the ten ounces weight is not. With documentation from a doctor, a supply that weighs more than sixty ounces is okay as long as the doctor states that this makes up a sixty-day supply for the particular person who is using it for medical reasons.

However, keep in mind that these rules for medical marijuana change a bit for dispensaries. With a medical use of marijuana license that we talked about above, a business becomes a registered marijuana dispensary (“RMD”), or a location where a person may obtain medical marijuana if they are not growing it themself.

There are three major phases to selling marijuana:

  • Cultivation
  • Processing
  • Distribution

RMDs are businesses that are allowed to do all of these activities in one location or in separate locations. When a store is registered as an RDM, there is no limit on the amount of medical marijuana that they may cultivate. However, it is required that they only grow enough medical marijuana for the needs of their patients or customers.

Can you smoke in public in Massachusetts?

The answer is no. It is illegal to smoke weed, BOTH recreational and medical, in public or on land that belongs to the federal government.

It is not illegal to travel with weed, but you are only allowed to have a maximum of one ounce on you at a time. At home, you are allowed up to 10 ounces.

Do I have to obtain my medical marijuana from a dispensary?

No, with what is called a hardship cultivation license, a person is allowed to cultivate medical marijuana for themself if they meet at least one of these conditions:

  • They have a confirmed financial hardship
  • They are physically unable to get to a RMD
  • There is no RDM within a reasonable distance

There are additional rules. One is that the cultivation must occur your primary home. It must also take place in an enclosed, locked area that is not visible from the street or a public area. Again, you are only allowed to grow a maximum of a sixty-day supply at a time if you are authorized by a hardship license.



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