BOSTON — Legal-marijuana activists were in a celebratory mood Thursday as a new voter-approved law took effect in Massachusetts, allowing people 21 and over to possess, grow and use limited amounts of recreational pot.

It will be at least another year before marijuana can be legally sold by licensed retailers in the state, and some supporters of the measure are wary Massachusetts officials might seek changes to the law or delay its full implementation over the coming months.

Massachusetts police warned of a potential spike in people driving under the influence of pot and general confusion about what is allowed under the law.

“Yesterday this would have been a $100 fine,” said Keith Saunders, as he held up a jar containing what he said was slightly less than an ounce of cannabis flower.

Saunders, a board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, gathered with other activists outside the Massachusetts Statehouse to celebrate the law.

“Ultimately, we are moving toward taking the existing marijuana market in Massachusetts and bringing it above board,” he said.


Massachusetts is the first state on the Eastern Seaboard where recreational marijuana is legal, though.

A recreational marijuana question on Maine’s Nov. 8 ballot passed by 4,073 votes but is undergoing a recount.

If the election results stand, the new law would take effect as soon as the first week of January, though the exact date is unclear because the recount must be completed first. The recount is scheduled to proceed through today, take a break for the holidays and then resume after Jan. 1.

Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska previously legalized recreational pot, and voters in California and Nevada also approved ballot measures last month.

In Massachusetts, adults can possess up to an ounce of pot outside the home, up to 10 ounces inside the home and grow up to a dozen marijuana plants per household.

Having spent nearly three decades crusading for relaxed marijuana rules, Bill Downing admitted to a mix of satisfaction and trepidation.

“I am both celebrating and worrying that the law might not be implemented properly,” said Downing, member liaison for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.

The concerns stem from statements by Democratic legislative leaders and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker promising a review and possible changes to the law, which passed by more than 240,000 votes out of nearly 3.8 million votes cast.

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