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What were they smoking?

A man showed the marijuana he was selling in front of the State House on Dec. 14, the day before the state’s new marijuana law took effect. He thought it was legal to sell it because of the new law, but he was mistaken.
A man showed the marijuana he was selling in front of the State House on Dec. 14, the day before the state’s new marijuana law took effect. He thought it was legal to sell it because of the new law, but he was mistaken. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Whoever wrote the new law legalizing marijuana must have been high.

Trying to figure out all the exemptions and nuances is like listening to some old guy with a ponytail who just smoked a bowl cough and stammer out an 11-minute explanation of why Iron Butterfly’s version of “In-A-Gada-Da-Vida” is the best song ever, man.

The law, which went into effect Thursday, says anyone 21 and over can possess and buy pot and grow it, as long as the plants are under lock and key, and can’t be seen from a public space. But if you grow it and sell it to someone — at least until dispensaries open in 2018 — you’re facing up to two years in the can.


And if you grow it outside, on your private property, the cops can still swoop in without a warrant and rip the plants from the ground, like they did to 82-year-old Paul Jackson on Martha’s Vineyard last summer.

Jackson didn’t sell the marijuana he grew. He used it in a tea he gave to his wife, Mary, easing her pain as she died from pancreatic cancer. He’s used it himself, most recently for shingles. He gave away marijuana to other islanders who were suffering from cancer.

I called Jackson to explain the new law.

“You can buy an ounce,” I told him, “but you can’t sell an ounce.”

There was a pause.

“So it’s legal to buy but not to sell?” he asked.


“You can grow six plants in your house,” I told Jackson, “but you can’t grow the four plants you had in your garden.”

There was another pause and then Jackson said, “But that doesn’t make any sense.”

In an eight-page memo, the state secretary of public safety, Daniel Bennett, laid out what he called “a complex web” that police officers will have to negotiate under the new law.


It will still be illegal to possess marijuana in a school or a correctional facility. State and local governments retain authority to prohibit possession in public buildings, including public housing.

Private ownership has its privileges, but they’re limited. You can possess up to 10 ounces in your primary residence. But you can possess only an ounce in a second home or at that cottage you rent on the Cape every summer, when on vacation and more likely to, ahem, indulge.

In the immortal words of Paul Jackson, organic farmer extraordinaire, that doesn’t make any sense.

Bennett’s memo to Colonel Richard McKeon, commander of the Massachusetts State Police, touches directly on the circumstances that led to Jackson’s plants being confiscated after troopers used a helicopter and binoculars to spy the marijuana he grows on his farm in an isolated part of Edgartown.

“The new law requires that home-grow cultivation be conducted in a manner that is not visible from a public place without the use of aircraft, binoculars, or other optical aids,” the memo says, which puts Jackson in the clear.

But then he’s not in the clear because the next clause says, “and that marijuana plants be secured under lock and key or other appropriate security device.”

State Police spokesman David Procopio said the department has not decided whether to apply again for the $60,000 federal grant used to fly helicopters and snatch the marijuana plants of Paul Jackson and that other octogenarian-but-no-Rastafarian, Peg Holcomb, an Amherst grandmother who used her single pot plant to treat her glaucoma and treat herself.


Doesn’t seem like it’s worth the bad publicity for the Staties, and it looks like the cops have enough on their hands.

Jackson says he’ll reluctantly put a lock on his greenhouse and grow there.

Holcomb told me she’s read up on the law but doesn’t understand it, other than it looks like it was written primarily to protect the profits of the fledgling legal marijuana industry.

“It’s all about the money, always is,” the wise Peg Holcomb said. “I’ll just proceed as I always have.”

Power to the people. Stick it to The Man.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com