Thursday March 15, 2018
Updated on 3/4/2022
With most of the western portion of the United States having adopted some sort of progressive cannabis reform, it seems like the legalization movement has shifted out east, specifically in New England. Cannabis has long been an influence on New England culture, and states have recently begun taking progressive measures to bring a prosperous marijuana industry to fruition in the east.
As it stands today, every one of the six states in New England has some form of cannabis reform, with three of them, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, already having legalized recreational marijuana. The remaining three states, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut, have all adopted medical marijuana laws and are pushing for legalization in the near future.
New England Cannabis Culture
To help you get a better feel for New England cannabis culture, let’s break it down state by state.
Massachusetts has experienced relaxed cannabis laws since 2008, when marijuana was first decriminalized in the Bay State. Medical marijuana was legalized four years later in 2012, setting the tone for recreational legalization four years later in November of 2016.
While recreational marijuana is currently legal in Massachusetts, the legal framework surrounding the sale and taxation of cannabis is not yet established. Medical marijuana dispensaries are currently open in Massachusetts, however, recreational dispensaries are slated to open sometime in the summer of 2018. Even though recreational dispensaries are not yet open, cannabis events are beginning to pop up across the state.
The largest and longest-standing cannabis event in New England is the New England Cannabis Convention, which brings thousands of industry professionals and cannabis enthusiasts together. There are speakers, exhibitors and plenty of interesting cannabis conversations going down at any given moment, making it a must-attend event for anyone who is interested in marijuana.
Similar to Massachusetts, Maine also legalized adult-use cannabis in November of 2016 – although the status of a rollout for rules and framework is far less concrete. In November of 2017, Governor Paul LePage vetoed the state’s recreational marijuana bill, leaving the future of a commercial cannabis industry delayed indefinitely.
While we wait for Maine to iron out the details of moving forward, Maine residents are still allowed to possess up to two and a half ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants in their private residence.
Vermont is the most recent state to legalize recreational cannabis and the first to do so via the legislature. However, the newly adopted legalization bill does not have any language establishing a regulated commercial cannabis industry.
That means that no dispensaries or sales of legal cannabis will happen in Vermont until the law is amended or another bill is passed.
Regardless, Governor Phil Scott has commissioned research into a tax-and-regulate system and if it would be beneficial for the state. Legalization is set to go into effect on July 1st, 2018.
Medical marijuana legalization in Rhode Island went into effect in January of 2006 and it wasn’t until June of 2009 that laws surrounding the dispensing of medical cannabis to patients were created. From there, it wasn’t until 2013 that the first dispensary, known as compassion centers in Rhode Island, opened its doors to patients.
Rhode Island is making a strong push for legalization in coincidence with Massachusetts’ recreational cannabis rollout. Expect to hear more on cannabis progression from the Ocean State in the coming months.
Connecticut’s medical marijuana bill was signed into law in May of 2012, allowing qualifying patients who register with the state access to medical cannabis products. The first round of approved dispensary facilities was announced in April of 2014, with the first dispensary opening in August of 2014.
Connecticut is currently weighing a bill that would legalize marijuana for adults and create a retail sales platform for the dispensing of cannabis. While Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has opposed legalization in the past, he recently expressed willingness if legislators oppose his proposals for raising revenue in other capacities.
Medical marijuana was legalized and signed into law in July of 2013, making New Hampshire the final state in New England to adopt progressive cannabis reform. The state’s first dispensary, or Alternative Treatment Center, opened its doors to patients in May of 2016.
In January of 2018, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to legalize cannabis in a similar fashion to Vermont’s recent legalization efforts. New Hampshire is certainly on the right track for legalization, however, the bill is not expected to be approved in the Senate.
Will Cannabis Tourism Increase with Legalization?
There’s no question that New England tourism will increase once legalization is in full effect. Boston, the largest city in New England, is in prime position to become the eastern epicenter of cannabis culture and there are already a plethora of cannabis events and activities popping up in the Bay State.
As seen in other recreational markets like Colorado, cannabis tourism is growing rapidly. People from all over the country are traveling to marijuana friendly states to experience the cannabis industry and robust culture that surrounds it.
This increased interest in the cannabis industry has prompted pro-cannabis organizations to hold events and conventions promoting cohesion in the industry. These events, like the New England Cannabis Convention mentioned above, have been gaining traction and establishing cannabis as a legitimate industry.
The Future of Cannabis in New England
Although the results have yet to be seen, New England is making some major strides towards becoming a cannabis hotspot. And once Massachusetts’ legal market opens up, there’s no telling how big their marijuana industry may become.
As cannabis culture grows with legalization, expect to see increased tourism to the region and more marijuana-related things to do. There will be added offerings like marijuana tours and activities, as well as more events to bring like-minded consumers together.
We’re excited to see cannabis take off in the northeast, be sure to follow along as we cover their emerging cannabis industry!
What are your thoughts about New England cannabis? Will legalization be a success in MA, VT and ME?