A new federal spending law enshrines in statutory form the policy that federal agents will no longer seek to interfere with medical marijuana retail establishments in states where they are legal. As Massachusetts law with regard to marijuana possession and use continues to evolve, this change lessens the likelihood that Massachusetts residents will find themselves federally prosecuted for the sale or possession of marijuana for medical use. However, federal prohibitions on, and penalties for, possession of marijuana remain far broader and harsher than those under Massachusetts law, and the new provision affects only medical marijuana; Massachusetts residents therefore remain vulnerable to federal prosecution for conduct that is not criminal under state law.
Massachusetts law regarding marijuana possession has undergone major changes in the last few years. First, in 2008, voters passed a ballot question (question 2) decriminalizing (but not legalizing) possession (but not distribution or possession with intent to distribute) of less than an ounce of marijuana. In 2013, a second ballot question (question 3), legalizing the medical use of marijuana, also passed. There is currently a campaign seeking to put the question of legalization of marijuana for recreational use before voters in 2016.