Massachusetts Bill Would Legalize Cannabis and Industrial Hemp

A bill introduced in Massachusetts would legalize marijuana and hemp for the general public, effectively thwarting the federal prohibition on the same.

House Bill 1561 (H1561) was introduced on March 10 by State Reps. David Rogers (D-Cambridge) and Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) along with 13 bipartisan co-sponsors. If this bill is successful, Massachusetts would become the first state to legalize both hemp and marijuana for recreational purposes through the legislature rather than the popular vote.

Both are considered illegal by all branches of the federal government, and with a vast majority of prohibition arrests done by states and not the federal government, passage would stop in practice any attempt by the federal government to keep these plants illegal in Massachusetts.

H1561 would allow an individual over the age of 21 to possess, use, obtain, purchase and transport up to 10 ounces of marijuana or up to 10 pounds of marijuana-infused products. Possession of marijuana by individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 shall be a civil infraction. Minors caught with marijuana would be required to complete a Drug Awareness Program.

Individuals would be allowed to set up marijuana shops, referred to as cannabis cafes in the bill, if they obtain a proper license. They would also be permitted to grow marijuana after receiving a cultivation license. The bill also classifies industrial hemp as a “product from cannabis,” and legalizes that crop for production and distribution as well.

Bills like H1561 are sweeping the nation, and for good reason. Reforms like these can affect federal policy while circumventing the Washington D.C. power structure completely. 

H1561 is an especially ambitious proposal because it doesn’t just legalize recreational marijuana, but industrial hemp as well.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $500 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

Massachusetts has the opportunity to join five other states – Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont – that have already passed similar measures. Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively blocking federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group who hopes to plant 25 acres this spring. The Tennessee Agricultural department recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon there too.

The momentum is on our side, but Massachusetts cannot legalize it without your help. This effort needs your support to achieve victory. H1561 is currently in Joint Committee on the Judiciary where it will need to pass through successfully before it can receive a full vote in the state house.