Adults over age 21 have been able to buy recreational marijuana in Massachusetts since November 2018. Alcohol sales have been legal in the commonwealth since it was a British colony.

Massachusetts charges a combined 17 percent tax on recreational marijuana sales. That includes a 10.25 percent excise tax and a 6.75 percent sales tax.

Local units can charge up to 3 percent more for a maximum potential marijuana tax of 20 percent. Massachusetts does not collect taxes on medical marijuana sales.

The tax structure for alcohol is different in Massachusetts and is levied on a per-gallon basis. The commonwealth levies a tax of up to $4.05 per gallon on alcohol sales.

Last year, the commonwealth collected more revenue from its 17 percent combined marijuana tax than it did from its varying tax on alcohol. The commonwealth collected $74 million from the sale of marijuana versus $51 million in alcohol taxes.

Marijuana tax revenues were about equal to alcohol tax revenues in 2020 at about $49 million each. But the growing access to and popularity of recreational marijuana sales is driving cannabis revenues higher every year.

Legalization Efforts Prove Fruitful

Tax revenues and lower law enforcement costs were an important driving force behind recreational marijuana legalization in Massachusetts. Voters approved a ballot initiative in 2015 that made recreational and medical marijuana legal in the commonwealth.

A lack of dispensaries prevented access for a while. Medical marijuana was available soon after through dispensaries. But recreational buying went into effect in 2018.

Now, anyone over age 21 and with a government-issued photo ID could buy recreational Massachusetts marajuana. Anyone with a medical marijuana prescription can buy it for a lower price than recreational buyers pay for the same product.

Legal marijuana includes flower, edibles, and concentrates. The commonwealth imposes limits on the amounts of each you could buy and possess at any given time. It also taxes the sale of recreational marijuana.

Limits on Recreational Buyers

Anyone from anywhere with a valid government-issued photo ID that says they are over age 21 can purchase up to an ounce of flower. They also can buy up to 5 grams of concentrate. Those are the same limits on what you can have in your possession at any time.

Massachusetts also limits the purchase of edibles. You can buy up to 20 servings that contain 5 milligrams of THC. Or you can buy and possess edibles that contain up to 100 milligrams of THC. Anything that exceeds the maximum amount could trigger a criminal charge.

Limits on Medical Marijuana Buyers

The Massachusetts medical marijuana laws are easier on medical sales than they are on those recreational buyers. If you have a valid prescription for medical marijuana, you can buy and have up to a 60-day supply. The commonwealth says that is up to 10 ounces of flower.

Unlike recreational sales, medical sales are available to anyone between ages 18 and 21 who has a prescription. And the commonwealth does not tax the sale. Anyone who could qualify for a medical marijuana prescription could save money, have more dispensary options, and buy larger quantities.

Even with a medical marijuana prescription, you must pay in cash because the federal government does not recognize any kind of cannabis as a legal product. But it is not enforcing laws against sales when done through state-licensed facilities.

Because the federal government continues to list marijuana as a controlled substance, all dispensaries require cash sales. The federal government regulates the banking industry. So no banks will process transactions done at any dispensaries in the United States.

Proposed federal legislation could change that soon and make it lawful for banks to process dispensary transactions. But until such enabling legislation becomes law, cash is king as marijuana dispensaries everywhere in the United States.

Two Kinds of Massachusetts Marijuana Dispensaries

If you are a recreational user of marijuana, you could purchase legal cannabis at dispensaries that provide products for recreational use. Most dispensaries that sell recreational marijuana also sell medical marijuana. But some that sell medical marijuana do not offer recreational sales.

If you are in a dispensary that serves medical and recreational users, you need to use the correct line. Most will separate their medical and recreational sales so that medical users can get in and out faster. Many dispensaries also make some products available only for medical sales.

You will not be able to go to a medical marijuana facility and obtain a prescription to buy cannabis products. Instead, you must obtain a prescription from a doctor prior to seeking medical marijuana. Many conditions qualify for medical cannabis prescriptions. Your doctor can help to determine if you qualify.

After buying legal marijuana, it must remain in its sealed container. You cannot open it or use it until you arrive at home or at another privately owned property.