Business, Health

What’s happening around New England …

Where pot is legal (and what kind)

Medical marijuana, like that displayed in this 2013 file photo at Venice Beach Care Center in Venice, Calif., is legal in New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont. Photo: The Associated Press
Medical marijuana, like that displayed in this 2013 file photo at Venice Beach Care Center in Venice, Calif., is legal in New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont. Photo: The Associated Press

Massachusetts is a cannabis oasis surrounded by states that don’t sell weed to adults who just want to get stoned.

Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont have all legalized medicinal marijuana and decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis. In Vermont, adults can grow and use weed recreationally, but there is nowhere to legally purchase weed in the state.

(Keep in mind that even in states where pot is legal, rules and regulations still apply. Decriminalization means criminal charges aren’t filed against an individual, but there are still penalties for getting caught with weed. All of these states have a fee system in place for being caught with up to an ounce of weed in your possession.)

Here’s what Massachusetts’ neighbors are doing with weed:

New Hampshire

In February, the state House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing cannabis for adults ages 21 and older with a 5% tax on cultivation and a 9% sales tax. The bill is being taken up by the state Senate. If the state Senate approves marijuana legalization, the chamber will get together with the House to present the governor with a joint marijuana legalization bill.

Gov. Chris Sununu, who has been vocal in his opposition to legalization, would then have an opportunity to sign or veto the bill. The House and Senate could override a veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

New Hampshire decriminalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana in 2017. The state legalized medicinal marijuana in 2013 but didn’t get a dispensary until 2016.

Vermont

Recreational cannabis is already legal in Vermont; the commercial weed market is not.

In 2018, Vermont approved the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults ages 21 and older, but didn’t establish standards for commercial cultivation, production or sales. In February, the Senate passed a bill that sets standards for a legal weed industry. Under the bill, weed sales would be taxed at 16% with a 2% local option tax. The proposal is now with the House, which could approve, reject or amend the bill.

Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004 and decriminalized pot possession in 2013. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or up to 5 grams of hash carries a monetary fine for those older than 21. For those younger than 21, punishment also includes suspension of the individual’s drivers license.

New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has drafted a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use, but in March, funding to legalize weed was dropped from the state budget proposal — not a good sign.

Meanwhile, the Manhattan District Attorney has stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana possession, and the state has dismissed 3,000 outstanding misdemeanor marijuana-possession and smoking cases.

New York was one of the first states to decriminalize possession of marijuana, adopting the policy in 1977 — sort of. There is a “public view” exception in the law that has allowed for more than 18,000 cannabis-possession arrests in 2016, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pro-legalization organization. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2014.

Connecticut

Connecticut’s marijuana future is difficult to see. Lawmakers are working on four weed-related bills. On March 25, the state Senate’s General Law Committee approved a bill that would create a commercial market.

Meanwhile, the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee is considering an act legalizing sales and erasing the records of past convictions based on small amounts of marijuana. The state House is hammering out an act concerning driving under the influence of drugs, while the state Senate is writing standards for cannabis in the workplace.

The state approved medicinal marijuana in 2012 and decriminalized possession of small amounts in 2011.

Further reading

A buyer’s guide for purchasing legal marijuana in the Berkshires: The rules have changed.

Changing Tastes: As the cannabis industry changes, so does the flavor of weed.

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