New England marijuana laws – where it’s legal, where it’s not and what you need to know

Published: 6/30/2018 10:56:21 PM

The pace of change is dizzying when it comes to marijuana’s legal status in New Hampshire and all our neighbors, so perhaps it’s time to clear up a few things. Here we go:

Is recreational marijuana legal? If not now, when?

New Hampshire: Attempts to legalize marijuana stalled in the New Hampshire Legislature this year, although possession of small amounts (three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish) was reduced to a violation, punishable by a $100 fine. 

Massachusetts: It has been legal since the end of 2016. If you’re 21 or older, you can possess up to one ounce of marijuana or five grams of concentrate outside of your residence, and up to 10 ounces of marijuana inside your residence. Adults can possess and cultivate up to six marijuana plants, with a maximum of 12 per household.

Vermont: Act 86 legalizing marijuana goes into effect Sunday. Adults age 21 and over can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and five grams of concentrate. Adults are allowed to grow two mature plants and four immature plants per household. Outdoor grows must be shielded from public view.

Maine: Marijuana has been legal since Nov. 8, 2016, after voters approved Question 1 at the polls. Adults age 21 and older can possess up to two and a half ounces, five grams of concentrate, six mature plants, 12 immature plants and an unlimited number of seedlings.

Quebec: Bill C-45, or the Cannabis Act, goes into effect Oct. 17. Adults 18 and older will be allowed to possess and share up to 30 grams of marijuana and grow up to four plants per household. Canada is the second nation in the world to legalize marijuana across the country.

Can I drive over the border – any border – and buy marijuana and bring it back?

No. Bringing marijuana across any state line or the national border is a federal offense. Don’t try it.

If I can’t bring it back, can I buy it there and consume it?

Massachusetts: As of Sunday, the sale of recreational marijuana will be technically legal, but no stores have been set up to actually sell it; sales by individuals will not be legal. As of this writing, one store in Leicester may be licensed to sell it recreationally by Monday. Some of the state’s 30 medical marijuana dispensaries may start selling it for recreational use. It remains illegal to consume marijuana in public, but you can consume it in a private residence. There have been discussions on allowing cannabis “social lounges” in the state, but so far lawmakers have held off.

Vermont: There are no retail stores and Vermonters are still prohibited from selling marijuana. If somebody gives you some marijuana – individuals can’t sell it – you can consume it in a private residence. Consuming cannabis in public and while driving is still illegal. Landlords will be allowed to ban use of marijuana as part of a lease.

Maine: Maine does not yet have retail stores to buy marijuana, although that should change soon. You can be given up to two and a half ounces so long as nothing is exchanged in return, and can consume it only on private property. Public consumption and driving while consuming is still illegal. Maine law allows for the future development of “social clubs” where residents and tourists alike can consume marijuana, similar to a bar.

Quebec: The cannabis act allows adults 18 and over to buy cannabis from a licensed retailer, when they’re set up. Provinces are allowed to set their own rules , including age and price restrictions, and Quebec is debating the details. Federally controlled stores may open in the future. Purchasing marijuana at an existing liquor store is still on the table.

How about if I have a doctor’s note?

New Hampshire: Medical marijuana – technically, therapeutic cannabis – has been legal since 2013 and more than 5,000 patients have used it. The state has four authorized alternative treatment centers, one each in Plymouth, Hanover, Merrimack and Dover, while two more have been authorized.

Massachusetts: The Bay State has had medical marijuana since 2013, and that hasn’t changed. As of now, the state’s 30 dispensaries can sell marijuana only to registered patients, although it’s possible that some might enter the recreational-marijuana business.

Vermont: Act 86 is separate from Vermont’s well established medical marijuana system. The state’s 5,000 registered patients will be unaffected by the new law. Marijuana can only be sold in dispensaries to registered patients.

Maine: As with other locales, legalizing recreational marijuana won’t change existing medical cannabis laws, which require a doctor’s approval and sale from licensed dispensaries.

Quebec: Canada’s medical marijuana industry is being included into the new law. Patients can still register to purchase their marijuana directly from federal regulators at Health Canada.

How about in a few months or a year?

New Hampshire: Advocates say they’ll try to get marijuana legalized again in the next legislative session. New Hampshire does not allow statewide referendums, which is the method that has been used by all states except Vermont to legalize marijuana.

Massachusetts: It seems likely that Massachusetts will have some retail stores for recreational marijuana open by the end of the year. Where they will be located, how they will operate and what prices will be – those are open questions.

Vermont: The next step for Vermont is to create a tax and regulate system. Gov. Phil Scott said he does not want to consider expanding the system until at least the end of this year after a marijuana commission gives its initial report.

Maine: Retail shops have not been set up for recreational cannabis, but this should change soon. Maine law allows for the future development of “social clubs,” like bars for marijuana, but there is no distinction between this law and the law that prohibits smoking in a workplace, so the clubs would only allow consuming it through non-smoking means like edibles. Licensing for these clubs has been delayed until at least June of 2019.

Quebec: With about four months to go until recreational weed is legal, provinces, territories and cities are still working to implement regulations they think will work. Minimum age for purchase, legality of public consumption, amount that can be held, grown or distributed – all those will be different across the country.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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