Marijuana laws take effect Sunday in Massachusetts, Vermont

June 30, 2018 GMT

Laws permitting the sale and personal use of recreational marijuana come into force Sunday in Massachusetts and Vermont, respectively.

In Massachusetts, adults 21 and over can legally purchase recreational marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries starting Sunday, July 1, when parts of a pot law approved by voters in November 2016 take effect.

In Vermont, meanwhile, adults can legally posses, use and grow the plant for personal use beginning Sunday because of a first-of-its-kind recreational law passed by the state legislature in January.

Both marijuana laws will take effect as efforts intensify on Capitol Hill to federally decriminalize the plant, potentially removing obstacles affecting the cannabis industry in the swelling number of states where the plant is allowed for either recreational or medicinal purposes.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act and prohibited under federal law. Most states have passed legislation permitting the plant for medicinal purposes, however, and nine including Massachusetts and Vermont have approved recreational, or “adult use” marijuana laws.

Massachusetts will become the seventh of the nine recreational marijuana states to permit retail sales once dispensaries start operating in accordance with the rules taking effect this weekend, but would-be customers may have to wait another day or longer before purchasing the plant from any legal pot shops: the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission hasn’t authorized any dispensaries to start recreational sales, but will consider issuing its first retail license during its meeting this Monday, July 2, according to its online agenda.

Vermont became the first state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana via its legislature rather than a ballot referendum in 2017, but Gov Phil Scott, a Republican, vetoed the bill over safety concerns, spurring lawmakers to draft a revised version subsequently signed into law in January letting adults possess up to an ounce of cannabis and up to four plants starting Sunday.

Similar aspects of the Massachusetts law letting adults possess, grow and use the plant previously took effect in Dec. 2016.

Legislation proposed Wednesday, meanwhile, would effectively decriminalize the plant at the federal level by removing it from the government’s list of controlled substances.

“The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and the bill’s main sponsor. “This legislation is simply the right thing to do, and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.”

President Trump said earlier this month that he would “probably” support a separate proposal that would protect states with marijuana laws from federal intervention.