Delay in Opening Pot Shops in Mass. Leaves the State in Legal Limbo

Delay in Opening Pot Shops in Mass. Leaves the State in Legal Limbo

If you live in Massachusetts and you were anxiously awaiting being able to legally purchase weed at a pot shop this time next year, well, the winter of 2018 is going to be extra long and extra cold. A half-dozen lawmakers in the state passed a bill December 28 delaying the opening date for recreational marijuana stores by 6 months – from January to July 1, 2018. [1]

The move would unravel a significant part of the marijuana law, which now goes to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for his signature. Baker’s office said he is studying the bill, but he is expected to sign it.

The part of the bill that legalizes possessing and growing weed at home already took effect on December 15. That would not change under the measure.

However, drafters of the bill have expressed that it is vital that pot stores open quickly, as Massachusetts now exists in a legal gray zone where pot is legal to possess but illegal to sell.

Jim Borghesani, a leader in the marijuana legalization campaign, said:

“We are very disappointed that the Legislature has decided to alter Question 4 in an informal session with very little notice regarding proposed changes.”

Borghesani said that the group was “willing to consider technical changes to Question 4 so that the new law is implemented in a timely and responsible manner. However, our position remains that the measure was written with careful consideration regarding process and timelines and that no major [l]egislative revisions are necessary.”

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg explained:

“The Legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety. This short delay will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law.”

One of the loudest voices calling for a delay was Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, the state’s top marijuana regulator. She had expressed that she needed more time than Question 4 gave her to ensure an effective new bureaucracy capable of both regulating and policing marijuana sales.

Opponents of the delay point out that Colorado managed to set up its recreational marijuana system in the same timeframe. They argue that adjusting the bill goes against the will of the people, who voted to legalize pot on November 8.

They’re even more frustrated with the way the bill was edited; the vote amounted to a sneak-attack that no one saw coming. Said Borghesani:

“We’re very disappointed with what they did and the way they did it. We’re disappointed that they extended this awkward period we’re in now where possession is legal but sales are not.” [2]

Under the delayed bill, a person over age 21 may legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana in public or up to 10 ounces of marijuana in the home. Residents are also permitted to grow up to 6 plants in their home. [3]


[1] The Boston Globe

[2] Reuters

[3] The Washington Times