• Buying and consuming hemp-derived CBD products is legal in Massachusetts. However, only non-food CBD products with no medicinal and therapeutic claims on the label are legal in the state(1).
  • Although Massachusetts has marijuana laws legalizing cannabis use, the state currently prohibits CBD-infused food to the public. CBD products marketed as dietary supplements are also not allowed(2-3).
  • The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) regulates only the wholesale market of hemp-derived products in the state. The retail market or direct to consumer sale of hemp products remains unregulated(4)
  • Hemp growers and processors can apply for a license at the MDAR. Retail shop owners are not required to have a license to sell CBD products(5).

Both hemp and marijuana-derived CBD are allowed in the state of Massachusetts.

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation in the United States(6). The bill paved the way for hemp-derived CBD products to be made legal nationwide, including Massachusetts.

However, there is a gray area concerning cannabidiol legality in the state. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) prohibits the selling of CBD-infused food to the public(7)

The MDAR also does not allow the sale of hemp-derived CBD products with therapeutic claims.

State Representative Mark Cusack introduced Bill H4001 in July 2019 to the House of Representatives(8). Rep. Cusack introduced the bill to clarify the confusion around CBD legality in Massachusetts.

The bill was petitioned by other lawmakers, like Representative Aaron Vega and Senator Adam Hinds(9). However, as of November 2020, the bill is still under review by the House Committee on Rules(10).  

Massachusetts CBD Laws

All cannabis varieties used to be illegal under the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act(11). The law changed when the 2018 Farm Bill was introduced.

The bill removed hemp from the list of Controlled Substances, making it legal to consume. However, hemp-derived products must contain 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or less to be considered legal(12)

Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD hemp, it gave states the independence to regulate production and sale in their jurisdictions. 

At the time of writing, Massachusetts does not have a state plan for hemp regulation. 

The MDAR is awaiting further instructions from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)(13).

These are the state laws related to the legalization of CBD in the state of Massachusetts:

Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative 2012

Voters in the state approved the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative in 2012(14)

The vote established the state’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) was assigned to regulate the program.

The Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative eliminated criminal penalties for qualified patients who use marijuana. Qualifying patients have been diagnosed with severe medical conditions, such as cancer, HIV, Crohn’s disease, or multiple sclerosis(15).

Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization 2016

In November 2016, the Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative was passed by voters. It allowed adults ages twenty-one and older to use cannabis(16).

The statute assigned the Cannabis Control Commission to regulate marijuana use statewide.

However, the House and Senate had different approaches in enacting the statute into law, and Bill H3818 was passed to reconcile the two groups. 

Bill H3818 was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in July 2017.

Bill H4001

Bill H4001 was a petition by State Representative Mark Cusack and other lawmakers to regulate industrial hemp and its byproducts(17). It was referred to the committee in July 2019 but was delayed for the rest of the year.

A new draft of H4001 was created in March 2020, which was labeled H4528. 

Preliminary reports mentioned that the bill was received favorably by the committee. It was also referred to the Committee on House Rules on the same day.

Licensing Requirements

Individuals who wish to grow or process industrial hemp commercially in Massachusetts can apply for a license through the MDAR. To complete the license application, users need to do the following(18):

  1. Review the MA Commercial Industrial Hemp Program Policy. Applicants need to understand the program requirements, risks, and other considerations.  
  2. Read the United States Department of Agriculture Interim Final Rule for US Domestic Hemp Production.
  3. Obtain, accomplish, and sign one of three types of application forms. Available application types are for growers, processors, and dual (grower and processor).
  4. Supply a map for every processing or growing site. The instructions can be found in the downloads section of this page: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/ma-industrial-hemp-program-licensing.
  5. Applicants must submit a current criminal history report within 60 days of application.
  6. Pay the $100 application fee by money order or check.

The fees required to apply depends on the type of license desired. Producers and processors need to pay $300, while those who operate as both must settle a $500 fee.

Applications are to be sent to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Hemp Program. An application should also contain the $100 non-refundable application fee.

The MDAR does not require a retail establishment owner to have a license to sell hemp-derived CBD products(19).

Testing Requirements

The MDAR tests the levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in hemp plants using high-performance liquid chromatography. Both THC and THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) are tested in this process. The crops are tested before harvest to ensure that the plants contain less than 0.3% THC.

THC is the primary compound in cannabis plants known for its psychoactive effects(20). Despite this negative aspect, THC has been widely researched in both humans and animals.

Hemp testing is mandatory under the 2018 Farm Bill for the state department of agriculture. It is required for their hemp regulatory plans to be approved by the USDA.

Under federal law, hemp that contains more than the allowed THC is considered a marijuana plant(21).

Buying CBD Legally

The Food and Drug Administration has completed evaluations on several hemp products. Hempseed protein, hulled hemp seeds, and hempseed oil are considered Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)(22).

However, hemp-derived CBD is still being evaluated for use as a dietary supplement or food additive. There are no clear possession limits concerning the amount of CBD oil one can have.

A medical marijuana card is not needed to obtain CBD hemp oil in Massachusetts. However, cardholders can purchase up to ten ounces of cannabis from a dispensary. Recreational marijuana users can only buy up to an ounce(23).

How to Choose Which CBD Products to Buy

CBD has become popular ever since the 2018 Farm Bill came into law. However, there are several things to note when buying CBD.

Choose the Best CBD Extraction Method

After harvest, hemp plants undergo a process that extracts all of its cannabinoids, terpenes, and minerals.

Several extraction methods are available to draw out cannabidiol from industrial hemp. Using carbon dioxide as the primary solvent is considered the cleanest and safest approach(24).

An ideal alternative is the extraction method that uses ethanol. Organic food-grade ethanol is capable of extracting all plant compounds of hemp.

Check CBD Product Labels

Interested buyers need to ensure they purchase from CBD brands that follow current labeling and packaging guidelines. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow therapeutic claims on hemp-derived CBD products(25).

Look for the following information from the labels of any CBD product:

  • CBD content per serving
  • Ingredients used
  • Net weight
  • Distributor or manufacturer name
  • Suggested use
  • Type of CBD
  • Date or batch code

Reputable CBD providers typically include these details on their product labels. They also do not have therapeutic claims on their items.

Look for Third-Party Lab Reports

Reviewing third-party lab reports allows first-time users to verify the ingredients listed for a CBD product. Such transparency is crucial as it lets consumers make an informed decision before buying.

Reputable CBD brands make their third-party lab results readily accessible to the public. Most CBD online retailers upload their certificates of analysis (COAs) on their websites.

Purchase Organic Hemp-Derived CBD Oil

One study showed that plants absorb minerals from the ground, which could potentially include contaminants(26). Thus, consumers should check the brand’s hemp source before purchasing their products.

Ideal cannabidiol products are those made from organic hemp plants. Organic hemp-derived CBD is free from harmful substances such as heavy metals, residual solvents, and pesticides.

Where to Buy CBD Products Legally

Buying cannabidiol derived from industrial hemp is legal in Massachusetts as long as it is not infused in food or advertised as a supplement(27).

CBD tinctures, gummies, topicals, capsules, and vaping e-liquid are the most common items. Some shops sell cannabidiol oil for animals. The best CBD oil in Massachusetts is one that is approved under federal law.

Here are popular stores to buy CBD oil in Massachusetts:

  • The Holistic Center in Boston
  • Patriot Care in Boston
  • The Kush Groove in Boston
  • Cultivate in Leicester
  • Canna Care Docs in Worcester
  • Buckeye Bros in Springfield
  • Voltage Vape Shop in Springfield

If any of these shops are not nearby, users can look for reputable online CBD suppliers. Many CBD manufacturers allow people to shop on their websites. Most of these providers can also deliver to all fifty states.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is CBD?

CBD, also called cannabidiol, is a chemical substance that can be acquired from cannabis Sativa plants. Researchers claim that CBD offers several therapeutic effects. Some of its properties are anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, and anti-anxiety(28).

What Are the Different Types of CBD?

Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the cannabinoids and terpenes present in cannabis plants. CBD that is considered full-spectrum includes THC, which some individuals prefer.

Broad-spectrum CBD is the variant that provides the same cannabinoid profile as full-spectrum except THC. People who purchase broad-spectrum products do not wish to consume THC or are allergic to it.

CBD isolates are pure cannabidiol. They are often sold as powder or crystals, which people can heat in a device to inhale. Cannabidiol isolates are also available as tinctures that can be taken under the tongue.

Is CBD Safe?

According to a document released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Agency found no evidence of any health-related complications associated with using pure cannabidiol(29)

WHO also noted that CBD consumption exhibited no effects indicating abuse or dependence on users.

One study revealed that high doses and chronic CBD use of up to 1,500 mg per day may be well-tolerated in humans(30).

Are Hemp and Marijuana the Same?

 Although both are variants of Cannabis sativa plants, they have vital differences that first-time users should know.

A cannabis plant is considered as hemp if it has less than 0.3% THC(31). Many CBD producers may prefer hemp plants due to being abundant in cannabidiol.

Meanwhile, marijuana is a cannabis plant that is abundant in THC. THC is often obtained through the leaves and flowers of female marijuana plants.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are biological compounds that bind to cannabinoid receptors located in various areas of the human body(32).

Phytocannabinoids or herbal cannabinoids are cannabinoids present in cannabis plants. Meanwhile, endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids may be found in the bodies of humans and other animals(33).

Scientists have isolated and identified more than one hundred different cannabinoids. The most notable phytocannabinoids are THC and CBD.

What Constitutes As A Medical or Therapeutic Claim?

Based on FDA definitions, these claims state that a product is intended for diagnosing, curing, mitigating, treating, or preventing any disease. A medical claim may also indicate that a product is meant to affect a specific part or function of the body.

Conclusion

Massachusetts went through several marijuana laws before the state decided to legalize hemp.

Today, people in the Commonwealth can purchase and use CBD oil. One crucial detail to remember is that cannabidiol products should not contain more than 0.3% THC.

Medical marijuana cardholders can buy more cannabis than those intending to consume it for recreational use. The state law also requires marijuana buyers to be at least twenty-one years old.

First-time users should consult a doctor before using any medical cannabis product. Doctors can give advice on dosing and potential drug interactions.


  1. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. FAQs: Sale of Hemp-Derived Products in the Commonwealth. Retrieved from: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/faqs-sale-of-hemp-derived-products-in-the-commonwealth
  2. Mass.gov. Marijuana in Massachusetts – what’s legal? Retrieved from https://www.mass.gov/info-details/marijuana-in-massachusetts-whats-legal
  3. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. FAQs: Sale of Hemp-Derived Products in the Commonwealth. Op cit.
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Hudak, J (2018, Dec. 14). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/
  7. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. POLICY STATEMENT REGARDING THE SALE OF HEMP-DERIVED PRODUCTS IN THE COMMONWEALTH. Retrieved from: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2019/06/12/MDAR%20Policy%20Statement%20Sale%20of%20Hemp.pdf
  8. Legiscan (2019, July 8). Massachusetts House Bill 4001. Retrieved from: https://legiscan.com/MA/bill/H4001/2019
  9. The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Bill H.4001. Retrieved from https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4001/Cosponsor
  10. Ibid
  11. Hudak, J (2018, Dec. 14). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. op. cit.
  12. Ibid
  13. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hemp in Massachusetts: FAQs. Retrieved from: https://www.mass.gov/guides/hemp-in-massachusetts-faqs
  14. Galvin, WF (2012, Nov. 6). Massachusetts Information for Voters 2012 Ballot Questions State Election. Retrieved from: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepdf/IFV-2012.pdf
  15. Ibid
  16. Ballotpedia. Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization, Question 4 (2016). Retrieved from: https://ballotpedia.org/Massachusetts_Marijuana_Legalization,_Question_4_(2016) 
  17. 9. Trackbill. Massachusetts H4001 An Act relative to hemp and hemp products in the commonwealth. Retrieved from: https://trackbill.com/bill/massachusetts-house-bill-4001-an-act-relative-to-hemp-and-hemp-products-in-the-commonwealth/1763657/ 
  18. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MA Industrial Hemp Program Licensing. Retrieved from: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/ma-industrial-hemp-program-licensing 
  19. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. FAQs: Sale of Hemp-Derived Products in the Commonwealth. op. cit.
  20. Atakan Z. (2012). Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 2(6), 241–254. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125312457586. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/ 
  21. Hudak, J (2018, Dec. 14). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. op. cit.
  22. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hemp in Massachusetts: FAQs. op. cit.
  23. The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. General Laws Section 13: Penalties. Retrieved from: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXV/Chapter94G/Section13 
  24. Rochfort, S., Isbel, A., Ezernieks, V., Elkins, A., Vincent, D., Deseo, M. A., & Spangenberg, G. C. (2020). Utilisation of Design of Experiments Approach to Optimise Supercritical Fluid Extraction of Medicinal Cannabis. Scientific reports, 10(1), 9124. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-66119-1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7272408/ 
  25. US Food & Drug Administration (2019, April 2). Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new steps to advance agency’s continued evaluation of potential regulatory pathways for cannabis-containing and cannabis-derived products. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-new-steps-advance-agencys-continued-evaluation 
  26. Ojuederie, O. B., & Babalola, O. O. (2017). Microbial and Plant-Assisted Bioremediation of Heavy Metal Polluted Environments: A Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(12), 1504. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14121504. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750922/ 
  27. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. FAQs: Sale of Hemp-Derived Products in the Commonwealth. Op cit.
  28. Bruni, N., Della Pepa, C., Oliaro-Bosso, S., Pessione, E., Gastaldi, D., & Dosio, F. (2018). Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(10), 2478. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23102478. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6222489/ 
  29. World Health Organization (2018, June 4-7). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf 
  30. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H., Zuardi, A. W., & Crippa, J. A. (2011). Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current drug safety, 6(4), 237–249. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488611798280924. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22129319/ 
  31. US Food & Drug Administration (2019, July 15). Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019 
  32. Sheikh NK, Dua A. Cannabinoids. [Updated 2020 Oct 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556062/
  33. Fisar, Z. (2009). Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, (1):51-75. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19630737/
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