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Massachusetts First East Coast State To Legalize Recreational Cannabis

Massachusetts is the first East Coast state to legalize recreational marijuana use. Voters passed the legalization initiative, Question 4, by a comfortable margin, according to Politico

The result comes as a surprise simply because it was hard to tell what to expect from the Bay State based on polling. Some surveys of likely voters pegged support for the initiative as low as 41 percent and as high as 62 percent. 

And support for the "yes" and "no" campaigns were both strong. The campaign's official list of endorsements included former Governor Bill Weld, travel writer and PBS host Rick Steves, and many law enforcers, healthcare professionals, academics, businesses and members of the clergy.

Meanwhile current Governor Charlie Baker (R), Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Attorney General Maura Healey lead a similarly long list of opponents.

So it's surprising that the initiative ran away with a 7 percent buffer as of 11:45 pm ET, making Massachusetts the 6th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Here's a glimpse of what legalization in Massachusetts will look like. And what it means to legalization in general.

Question 4

Question 4 will make it legal for people 21 or older to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis at home in Massachusetts. So local renovators might want to start marijuana humidors that complement liquor cabinets. Residents will also be allowed to grow up to six plants, but the limit per household is 12 plants. So even if you have four adults living in your home, you can't grow more than a dozen plants. 

Adults will soon be allowed to buy and posses up to one ounce of cannabis in public, but public consumption would remain illegal.

Sales will be restricted to stores licensed by a newly created Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), which will develop and enforce state regulations. They will issue licenses to retailers as well as commercial growers, product testers, marijuana researchers and cannabis social clubs. Those clubs, which are like marijuana bars, have become a hot issue because they're currently banned in Colorado and other legal states.

The CCC will also allow marijuana special events through limited-time permits. So you might get invited to a marijuana gala in the near future if you live in Massachusetts.

All retail sales will be charged a 3.75 percent excise tax on top of the 6.25 percent state tax. Cities and towns can also add a local tax of up to 2 percent. So depending on where you buy, you'll pay a tax of at least 10 percent and no more than 12 percent on your cannabis purchases, which is lower than the 15 percent rate that states like Arizona and Nevada are planning to impose on their markets.

The Bigger Picture

Question 4 could be a game changer for the legalization movement, accord to Morgan Fox -- Communications Director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

“[Repealing prohibition] in states in the northeast - like Maine and Massachusetts - is going to make a huge difference," he told Civilized. "Northeastern states tend to be a bit more conservative in terms of how fast they move on various social changes.”

But the example of Massachusetts could motivate those states to pick up speed on marijuana reform. 

"When their neighbors are making good policy changes, and starting to reap the benefits from them, it’s going to be very hard for them to continue to ignore their constituents,” Fox added.


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