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Laws and Regulations

Massachusetts Drug/Substance Use Laws

Massachusetts enforces strict regulations on drug and substance use to ensure public safety and health. The laws encompass the classification, possession, distribution, and penalties associated with controlled substances. For detailed information, please visit the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C.

Underage Drinking


Background on Cannabis Legalization in Massachusetts

In 2016, Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana for individuals aged 21 and older. This made Massachusetts the first East Coast state to legalize recreational marijuana. Since retail sales began in 2018, over 314 adult-use marijuana retailers have been approved statewide, generating over $5 billion in gross sales.

Cannabis Legislation in Dedham

  • 2016: Dedham voters approved Question 4.

  • Spring 2017: Town Meeting approved a temporary moratorium (Article 18) on marijuana establishments until the end of 2018.

  • Fall 2017: Town Meeting approved Article 8, which prohibited marijuana establishments, later confirmed by a town-wide ballot in 2018.

Possession Limits

  • Individuals over 21 may possess up to one ounce of marijuana on their person.

  • Up to 10 ounces may be possessed at home, along with marijuana produced from plants cultivated on-site. Amounts exceeding one ounce must be secured by a lock.

Public Consumption

  • Smoking or consuming adult-use marijuana in public places or where tobacco use is prohibited is illegal, with a civil penalty of up to $100.

Home Cultivation

  • Adults over 21 can grow up to six plants per person at home, with a maximum of 12 plants per residence if multiple adults are present. Plants must be grown in a secure area not visible from public view.

Driving Regulations

  • Similar to alcohol, open containers of marijuana are not allowed in the passenger area of a vehicle. Consumption while driving is strictly prohibited.

Workplace Regulations

  • Employers may enforce policies restricting marijuana consumption in the workplace.

Local Regulations

  • Cities and towns have the option to ban adult-use marijuana facilities, typically through a ballot referendum if they initially voted for Question 4.

Medical Marijuana

  • The legalization of adult-use marijuana does not impact the status or registration process for medical marijuana patients.

For more detailed information, visit Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission's "Know the Laws" page.

Opioid Prescription Regulations in Massachusetts

Section 19D: Supply Limitations for Opiate Prescriptions; Exceptions for Palliative Care

General Rule: 7-Day Prescription Limit

  • For Adults: When prescribing an opiate to an adult patient for the first time for outpatient use, practitioners cannot issue a prescription for more than a 7-day supply.

  • For Minors: Practitioners cannot issue an opiate prescription for more than a 7-day supply at any time and must discuss the risks associated with opiate use and the necessity of the prescription with the minor’s parent or guardian.

Exceptions to the 7-Day Rule

  • Acute Medical Conditions: If a practitioner believes that more than a 7-day supply is necessary to treat an adult or minor patient's acute medical condition, chronic pain, pain associated with a cancer diagnosis, or for palliative care, they may issue a prescription for the required quantity.

  • Documentation Requirement: The condition necessitating the prescription of more than a 7-day supply must be documented in the patient’s medical record, and the practitioner must indicate that a non-opiate alternative was not appropriate.


  • The 7-day prescription limit does not apply to medications designed for the treatment of substance abuse or opioid dependence.

Resources for Treatment and Recovery

  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS): Provides a comprehensive description of services on their website.

  • American Society of Addiction Medicine: Learn more about the levels of care on the Recovery Research Institute’s website.

  • Harm Reduction Coalition: Learn more about harm reduction strategies and social justice movement on the national Harm Reduction Coalition’s website.

Section 35: Civil Commitment for Substance Addiction

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 123, Section 35 allows the courts to involuntarily commit individuals with alcohol or substance use disorders who are likely to cause serious harm due to their addiction. This commitment is intended for inpatient care.

Frequently Asked Questions about Section 35

  1. What is Section 35?

    • Section 35 permits involuntary commitment for individuals with alcohol or substance use disorders when there is a likelihood of serious harm.

  2. Purpose of Commitment:

    • The commitment aims to provide inpatient care for individuals struggling with alcohol or substance use disorders.

Need Help?

If you or someone you know needs help with an alcohol or drug problem, please visit the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) for support and resources.

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