Why Should You Keep Your Massachusetts MMJ Card?

As the state looks ahead to adult–use, or recreational sales, INSA has received a lot of questions from concerned patients and interested individuals trying to make an informed decision.  They want to know what’s going to happen to the existing Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana (MMJ) Program. With legal recreational sales on the way, is the Massachusetts MMJ Program still necessary?  Is it beneficial to remain a MMJ Patient?

The answer is… Yes!

The fact is, the Massachusetts MMJ Program is and will continue to be a very necessary piece in ensuring Massachusetts’ patients are given the best possible access to the treatments that work for them. The designers of the program have taken special care to furnish the medical program with its own exclusive features and benefits that recreational customers will not have access to.

 

Reason #1: Save 20%

If you’re a medical cannabis patient in Massachusetts, you’re probably thinking, “Why should I bother paying money upfront to renew my card, when I can just go into a recreational cannabis shop for free?” Well, if you’re like most patients, you’ll probably end up spending more than $1,200 a year at a medical cannabis dispensary, such as INSA Springfield or INSA Easthampton.

Why is that $1,200 number so important?

Well, considering a state tax rate of 17%, and assuming local municipalities will take advantage of the opportunity to charge a 3% rate, we’re looking at a 20% total tax rate on recreational cannabis.  Medical patients do not pay any tax.

It can cost you about $200 to see a certifying doctor, and another $50 to register with the State.  That’s $250. Which means if you spend over $1200 a year (or just $100 a month), having a medical card will pay for itself.

 

Reason #2: No Dose Potency Limits on Medical Edibles

Did you know that one of the most drastic differences between medical and adult-use cannabis will be in edible dosing restrictions?  As it stands, medical edibles do not have a limit on the amount of THC allowed per dose.  Recreational adult-use edibles will be capped at five milligrams per dose or serving.

These restrictions are not meant to punish recreational consumers or reward patients.  Simply, the rule is in place as a safeguard for the general public. Similar regulations can be found in California, Washington, Nevada, and Colorado where cannabis edibles meant for recreational consumption are capped at one hundred milligrams a piece.  Of course, with a cap at a mere five milligrams per dose, Massachusetts takes this a step further.

 

Reason #3: Home Delivery

Right now, medical cannabis patients in Massachusetts are allowed to have their cannabis delivered to them, provided there are services available.  These services will eventually extend to recreational consumers – but not until summer, 2019 at the very earliest.  So, if you’re interested in getting your cannabis brought directly to your door, a medical card will be the only way to make that happen for the foreseeable future.  Ask an INSA team member about when home delivery will be available.

 

Reason #4: Reserved Stock

While recreational, adult-use cannabis will be offered strictly on a first-come, first-served basis, medical patients can be assured that a percentage of the dispensaries’ stock will be set aside for them.  This is to ensure that those who have spent the money and time to maintain their Massachusetts MMJ registrations are taken care of in receiving medicine that is necessary for them.

Does this mean that I’m guaranteed to get exactly what I came in for?

Not necessarily, no.  Just as there is no way currently for dispensaries to guarantee the availability of a specific product, this reservation of product for medical card holders will not provide any guarantees of particular products either.  There are many issues that can arise when working with plants. (They like to grow at their own pace!)

 

Reason #5: Purchasing Limits

Massachusetts MMJ regulations stipulate that adult-use cannabis consumers will be allowed to purchase up to one ounce per visit, while medical patients will be allowed up to ten ounces at a time, provided the amount purchased fits within their 60-day allotment.

 

Among all of this seeming uncertainty, one thing stands for sure - these are very exciting times in the world of legal cannabis here in Massachusetts.  As we move forward, it’s important - whether you’re a patient or an adult-use consumer - to surround yourself with as much information as you can.  The fact of the matter is, with such a new industry, change is the name of the game.  Here at INSA, we will continue to grow and adapt to consistently meet and exceed the needs and expectations of our patients.  We’ll always be keeping an ear open to those questions and concerns, and will always do our best to ensure that our patients have access to safe, reliable medicine, in a comfortable, welcoming environment.  Here at INSA, serving the Massachusetts medical cannabis community is nothing short of a labor of love. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Recreational Cannabis in Massachusetts - What's the Word?

The seeds of Massachusetts cannabis legalization were first sown back in 2008, when decriminalization measures passed by voters saw most cases of cannabis possession go from a criminal charge to a civil infraction. The legal cannabis cause was forwarded substantially during the 2012 election, in which we saw the approval of the Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana (MMJ) Program. In fall 2016 voters across Massachusetts said yes to Question 4, to fully legalize and regulate cannabis.

But wait a minute, you say - what does it all mean? Unfortunately, there seems to be more questions than answers out there, and even the good information can be confusing. So what’s the deal? We thought we would break it all down and get straight to the facts.

 

“So July 1st is definitely the day that recreational cannabis goes on sale in Massachusetts?”

Yes!  Well, that was the plan at least.  In the law that made adult-use, or recreational marijuana use legal, guidance and a budget was formed to create the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).  The mission of the CCC is to honor the will of the voters of Massachusetts by safely, equitably and effectively implementing and administering the laws enabling access to medical and adult use marijuana in the Commonwealth.

The CCC rolled out a time table to license dispensaries to start selling recreational cannabis products starting on July 1, 2018.

However, the July 1 start date is looking very unlikely, as of today. With so much left to do, there is definitely a chance that the CCC won’t meet the July 1 goal. There are still many unanswered questions as of the posting of this blog, just a few days away from July 1.  

Check back often as we will continue to update this blog as we are made aware of any changes.

 

“Will I need a special card to buy recreational cannabis in Massachusetts?

No! Since it is not a part of the Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana Program (MMJ), the only credential necessary to purchase from a recreational cannabis dispensary is a government – issued photo ID that matches the purchaser.
This can include:
Driver’s License
State ID
Passport
Military ID

 

“How much is recreational cannabis going to cost? I heard it was going to be a lot more than medical cannabis.”

It is true that recreational cannabis in Massachusetts will be subject to taxes that MMJ Program patients are exempt from. This rate will include the state’s excise tax, 10.75%, and sales tax, 6.25%, for a total state tax rate of 17%. Of course, this may be compounded with municipal or local taxes, up to an additional 3%.  For many patients, it just makes good financial sense to keep your patient status active. For more information on maintaining your Massachusetts MMJ Patient status, check out our guide here.

 

“How much cannabis can I possess as a recreational consumer, and am I able to transport it?

As the law is written, adults in Massachusetts are allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis outside of their residence. Inside their residences, they are allowed up to ten ounces.

If you’re going to be driving with cannabis in the car, you may not have an open container in the passenger compartment of the car. An open container is considered any package with a broken seal or with the contents partially removed.

Speaking of driving – we really hope it goes without saying, but if you’re going to be driving with cannabis in the car – DON’T USE IT WHILE YOU’RE DRIVING! Everyone knows somebody whose life was turned upside down by a drunk driving accident or conviction. Operating a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance can ruin your life and the lives of others around you.

 

“Am I able to grow my own cannabis?”

Absolutely. All adult – use cannabis consumers are allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants per person, and up to twelve total plants per household. Of course, landlords have the right to disallow cannabis cultivation on their property, so it’s important to get the ‘all clear’ from them first!

 

“Will I have to give up my FID card if I purchase recreational cannabis from a Massachusetts dispensary?”

We’ve heard this one many times, and the official line is this – the federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has said, “Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.” This is nothing more than a recent reiteration of the Gun Control Act of 1968 which prevents anyone who “uses or is addicted to a controlled substance” from owning or using a gun. To get a sense for where they stand now, recent appellate rulings have said that barring medical patients from owning a firearm does not violate their second amendment rights.

 

“How old do I have to be to purchase recreational cannabis in Massachusetts?”

To purchase recreational, adult – use cannabis in Massachusetts, the purchaser must be at least 21 years old. Once shops open for recreational sales, a valid government – issued photo ID is required upon entry into the dispensary.

 

“Now that recreational cannabis is legal in Massachusetts I can consume it wherever I want, right?”

Well… not quite! While you now have the ability to legally carry cannabis in public, it is still a civil infraction to consume it in public spaces. The law sees public cannabis consumption in a way similar to an open container of alcohol. The penalty in Massachusetts is $100 per occurrence – the same as it’s been since decriminalization in 2008. Of course, it is still illegal to bring your cannabis over state lines, into federal buildings or onto federal property.

 

The CCC will be revaluating and potentially rewriting regulations pertaining to “on-site consumption” in February of 2019.

 

“Can I share the recreational cannabis I buy from a dispensary with a friend? Can I purchase for them?”

So recreational cannabis isn’t even on sale yet and you’re already asking how you can share yours with your buddies? Where can I find some friends like you? Anyways, as long as your friends are over 21 years old, feel free to share! As for buying cannabis for them – as long as they’re over the age of 21, you are perfectly in your right to do so.

 

Check back often as we will continue to update this blog as we are made aware of any changes or updates on when the state will be licensing recreational dispensaries.