Cannabis is legal in Massachusetts for over-21s, for both medical and recreational use. But how did we get here?
The first step toward legalization came in 2012 when medical cannabis was approved for patients suffering from serious health issues. And in November 2016, 54% of Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, which called to legalize cannabis while regulating it like alcohol. Passing this ballot initiative set off a chain of events that led to the first two recreational Massachusetts dispensaries opening in November 2018.
The pot legalization impact on Massachusetts has been overwhelmingly awesome. Here are just three of the most important shifts legal cannabis has introduced to the Bay State.
Legalization Influences Patterns of Use
Legalization offers consumers a consistent supply of a huge variety of cannabis products. In a study from 2022, Massachusetts users estimated that 64% of all cannabis they bought was sourced from the legal markets.
The type of products they’re consuming has changed too. Before legalization, the typical user just sourced flower from their local dealer or a friend. They might have baked edibles with some of that stash.
But now, with easier access to concentrates and a much wider variety of edibles, these cannabis products have entered the mainstream too. A 2017 online survey of cannabis users across the U.S. found concentrate users were nearly five times as likely to live in a state with legal recreational cannabis.
Legalization Facilitates Regulation and Safety
Legalizing cannabis has allowed the Massachusetts government to create a framework of laboratory testing and regulations legal suppliers must meet before they can sell a product. This protects consumers from unknown harmful substances in their weed. In Massachusetts, growers must test each cannabis product for mold, mildew, heavy metals, plant growth, and pesticides.
Massachusetts cannabis suppliers must also state the amount of THC in each package, indicate what a “single-serving size” would be, and place more specific warnings on vaporizers and edibles.
It’s harder to get too high and have a bad time once you start understanding what your THC limits are. These small but essential touches help the consumer stay informed and take better control of their cannabis use. And they only exist because of legalization.
Legalization Benefits the Economy
By November 2021, legal cannabis sales in Massachusetts had reached $2.3 billion. Legal cannabis boosts loads of other industries, like tourism, real estate, construction, banking, and transportation.
Taxes collected from the sale of cannabis products provide funding back to the community. Although each county decides separately where this money goes, and no official database exists, it can be traced to pools of money that improve vulnerable communities, public schools, public transportation, roads, and public safety.
Legalizing cannabis also creates thousands of jobs. As of 2022, there were 27,212 legal cannabis jobs in Massachusetts — that’s more than the number of lawyers in the state.
Legalization and Your Local Massachusetts Dispensary
We’ve covered just a few of the ripple effects legalizing cannabis has had on the communities of Massachusetts. And this fast-changing industry is still in its early days. We’re excited about the long-term insights researchers could gain in the coming years from studies on the legalization of cannabis.