Thursday, December 15 Massachusetts is poised to officially become the first state on the East Coast to legalize weed production and possession for adult recreation.
Tomorrow it will be legal for any resident of Massachusetts aged 21 or over to start growing a maximum of 12 cannabis plants at home. They may also possess 10 ounces of cannabis flowers at home and 1 ounce in public without fearing arrest. Public pot smoking is still banned in the same manner as tobacco smoking.
In passing Question 4 on Nov. 8 by a margin of 53 to 46 percent, according to Ballotpedia, Massachusetts voters also approved the creation of a state Cannabis Control Commission to regulate legal production and sales. The process of setting up that commission and initiating retail sales of cannabis products is not expected to be complete until sometime in 2018.
State lawmakers in Massachusetts who were previously opposed to Question 4, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Gov. Charlie Baker, are now acting in unison to ensure that its provisions are implemented as quickly as possible.
DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who announced publicly before that he would vote in favor of Question 4, released a joint statement announcing that there would be no delay in implementing the law, as its supporters had feared.
This is very good news for East Coast cannabis advocates. A month and a half before the vote, I personally witnessed the public fervor for legal weed in the Bay State leading up to that election victory.
On Sept. 17, I drove from upstate New York to attend the Boston Freedom Rally, a two-day smoke fest on the historic Boston Common organized by the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition. For 27 years it has been the largest public weed rally on the East Coast.
I parked my vehicle a few blocks from the Boston Common at about, then rushed to a little store on Newbury Street called Hempest to buy a short-sleeved hemp shirt. The sidewalks were so packed with bodies that I was lucky to reach the Common by about 10 minutes after 4.
Many thousands of young people and adults were mingling there under a hot sun, as they inspected the wares offered by dozens of vendors, stood in food and refreshment lines, or tried to navigate the crowded pathways to other areas of the park.
There was not a cop in sight as speakers on the main stage were revving up rally attendees to savor that moment when local clocks struck 4:20 p.m. Giant clouds of smoke then rose above the Boston Common in a very public refutation of federal marijuana law.
Later on, one speaker kept loudly encouraging attendees to repeat a fitting mantra. He shouted into the microphone, “C’mon people, say it: I smoke weed, and I’m a good person!” His words echoed off of the apartment and office towers surrounding the Boston Common.
When I returned that night to New York, where anti-marijuana repression still rules the day, I was certain that Massachusetts voters would pass Question 4. I’m immensely grateful they did, because it sends a clear message to political leaders in nearby states: opposing legal weed is no longer wise.