There Could Be More Delays to Massachusetts’ Marijuana Law

It might not be legal on December 15 like it's supposed to be.

Photo via iStock/nathanphoto

Photo via iStock/nathanphoto

After voters elected to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Massachusetts, the law was supposed to take effect on December 15. But that may not happen on schedule.

A delay in certifying votes cast in the 2016 election could push back the date the state legalizes it, officials say.

According to the new law, December 15 is intended to be the date when it becomes fully legal to smoke marijuana or consume THC-laced edibles inside your own home. On that day, the law says, users can begin growing marijuana plants (up to six per person, or up to 12 per household), can possess up to 10 ounces at home, or up to one ounce in public, and can legally give people over 21 marijuana without payment.

Secretary of State William Galvin insists this isn’t a case of political maneuvering. It’s just that the officials charged with certifying votes only meets once a week, and may not give the final approval before December 15.

“All those tokers can hold their breath a little longer, but they’ll be able to exhale” next year, he told the Globe.

The ballot initiative, Question 4, called for the first marijuana retail stores to open in 2018. But that date may also end up being moved back, as officials say they are worried they won’t be able to prepare in time to regulate the new industry.

State legislators are also considering ways they might tweak the language of the law, for example by increasing the tax on the drug, which some have argued are too low.

All of this isn’t sitting well with pro-pot advocates, who remember the sluggish roll-out of the medical marijuana law voters approved in 2012. After facing bureaucratic hurdles, the first dispensary didn’t open in the state until 2015. But Will Luzier, former Yes on 4 campaign manager, says that although he would be “disappointed” if the law sees a delay, he is hopeful that lawmakers will ultimately see to a roll-out that reflects the will of voters. He and other legalization campaigners met with Senate President Stan Rosenberg, the most high-profile politician to endorse the initiative, on Monday.

“He is interested in making sure that the law is implemented as closely to the way it was written as possible, and we had a broad-ranging discussion,” Luzier says. “I wouldn’t say I’m discouraged in any way.”