Police, Public Get Up to Speed on New Marijuana Laws

Wednesday, an adult living in Haverhill or anywhere in Massachusetts could have been arrested for having as little as 10 ounces of marijuana or less in their homes, or carrying an ounce of the drug outside. But not today.

Legal possession and recreational use of marijuana went into effect Thursday as a result of a ballot referendum that voters approved in November’s election.

State Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett sent a letter of guidance to law enforcement agencies throughout Massachusetts clarifying what is allowed – and not – under the law.

In Methuen, police and city officials did the same, releasing information for residents and visitors to the city about what to expect with the changes in the law.

Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon and Mayor Stephen N. Zanni told WHAV they are grateful for the state’s direction.

“The Methuen Police Department is a public safety agency first and foremost and we want our residents to understand the new law clearly,” Solomon said.

“We hope that these guidelines provide some clarity for our residents and officers alike,” Zanni said. “Our police officers will remain extremely vigilant in looking for those operating under the influence or engaging in any activities that may harm yourself or others.”

Among the changes to marijuana laws:

  • People 21 or older, without civil penalties or tickets, may legally possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana inside one primary residence, or up to one ounce of marijuana outside their residence.
  • Adults are allowed to give less than 1 ounce of marijuana to another person 21 or older.
  • It is legal to possess up to 5 grams of a marijuana concentrate such as cannabis oil.
  • Sale of marijuana paraphernalia, such as bongs or pipes, to a person age 21 or older, is legal, as is growing or cultivating up to six marijuana plants in a single residence, or 12 plants if two or more in the household are engaged in growing activity. “For example, in the case of households with two roommates, if one roommate wants to grow marijuana but the other does not wish to engage in the cultivation of marijuana, the other roommate may only grow six plants, not 12,” the statement reads. A license from the Cannabis Control Commission is needed to grow more than these limits or the person is at risk of civil fines or criminal prosecution.

It remains illegal, however, to possess marijuana in government buildings, on school grounds or in an open container inside a vehicle; to consume marijuana in public unless for medical purposes, or in any place that bans the use of tobacco; or to drive under the influence of marijuana or any other drugs. Unlicensed selling or trading remains a criminal offense and marijuana remains illegal under federal law and inside federal parks, buildings and facilities

For adults between 18 and 21 years, marijuana possession remains decriminalized and police may impose a civil penalty of $100. The purchase or attempted purchase of marijuana paraphernalia by those under 21 remains a misdemeanor, while it remains a felony to minors. For persons under age 18, possession remains decriminalized, but juveniles will be subject to a civil penalty of $100 and will be required to complete a drug awareness program. They or their parents may also face a penalty of up to $1,000.


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