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What Can N.H. Expect Now that Pot's Legal in Massachusetts?

By martinalonso4895 via Flickr CC

Recreational marijuana is now officially legal in Massachusetts. But what does that mean, and what can New Hampshire residents expect now that they're surrounded by legal recreational marijuana?  

WBUR's Martha Bebinger spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello to discuss this new law.  

So Martha, it’s legal in Massachusetts now, but folks in New Hampshire should know that it’s not quite time to cross the border to buy some, correct?

You cannot legally buy marijuana in Massachusetts yet, that is correct. The stores are not expected to open until early 2018. That’s really the earliest they’ll open, and it may well be later after legislators tinker with the law a bit. 

So right now New Hampshire residents could be in Massachusetts in possession of an ounce of Marijuana in public. Police probably wouldn’t ask them where they got it, but they would not be able to come looking for it to buy.

They could have it in public, but could they use it in public?

No, there’s no use in public. You could use it in your home, assuming you own your home.  If you rent you need to be sure that it’s okay with your landlord. And if you’re in a public housing situation, it’s probably going to be illegal because use of marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Okay. And one of the interesting nuances of this law is that giving marijuana as a gift is legal even if you can’t buy it, so how would that work?

Well, you can as of today start growing marijuana, so you can grow six plants per person or up to 12 per household. And that will likely be more than many people can use, so you’re allowed to give it away an ounce at a time. And there aren’t really any restrictions on how much you can give to any one person or how often.

Okay, so presumably it would be legal for folks from New Hampshire to cross the border and possess it, though it’s not legal here in New Hampshire. Are officials in Massachusetts anticipating a stampede of Granite Staters across the border? And if so, are they preparing for that in any way?

I haven’t heard of any specific preparations. I did speak to a chief of police in Salisbury not too long ago who had some concern about that, but as I said it won’t be available for sale for another year, so police have some time to get ready for people actually crossing the border for legitimate sales. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some increased traffic and some sort of more deluded from of weed tourism is people know or have friends here that would give it to them, but that’s not quite at the stampede level.

Now both Massachusetts and Maine have legalized marijuana, which leaves New Hampshire in the middle. Do Massachusetts legislators see the legalization of marijuana as sort of a competition between the states, hoping to maybe gain whatever advantage there is to be gained on this issue simply by getting there first?

No. I haven’t heard anyone mention that. You may know that most of the top elected officials in MA opposed this question. Our Senate President was the only really high profile leader at the state house who supported approval of recreational marijuana. So there’s really a lot of reluctance about moving forward quickly on this law. There’s a lot more interest in being cautious about making sure that all of the regulations in the law are drafted carefully. Colorado had many amendments within the first few years, and I’ve heard a number of people say we want to try to get it right the first time. So I don’t think there is a sense that the money available is going to cause people to override any of their hesitation, which they’ve already expressed.    

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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