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Pot is legal on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Transporting it there is not

The state’s new marijuana law poses unique problems for the islands of Nantucket, pictured above, and Martha’s Vineyard.
The state’s new marijuana law poses unique problems for the islands of Nantucket, pictured above, and Martha’s Vineyard.(David L Ryan/Globe Staff/file)

Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket may seem like idyllic vacation spots, green gems embedded in a blue ocean. But when it comes to marijuana, it’s more like they’re legally surrounded.

While the islands off Cape Cod are part of Massachusetts, where marijuana has been legalized, the planes and ferries that serve the island are under federal oversight, and marijuana has not been legalized under federal law.

“The prospect of transporting marijuana products to either one of the islands presents a thorny legal situation,” said state Senator Julian Cyr, a Democrat who represents the Cape and Islands. He and state Representative Dylan Fernandes, who also represents the area, have pushed for the state’s new Cannabis Control Commission to come up with a solution to the problem.

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It raises the question, “How can people who are involved in this industry who are on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, how can they legally participate in the eyes of Massachusetts?” Cyr said.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it is working to find a solution.

Cyr said the transportation problem could affect the marijuana business on the islands in a number of different ways, including barring seeds or plants from being brought for cultivation, barring export of island-grown marijuana and the import of off-island marijuana, and barring samples that need state testing from being taken back to the mainland.

The biggest problem, he said, is the testing component. Island growers will “have to get approval or some sort of oversight to begin selling.”

One solution that’s been discussed is setting up independent testing labs on the islands, but Cyr said it wasn’t clear if the “economies of scale would make sense.”

“There’s not like a perfect solution here,” he said.

The commission is looking at, among other things, the experience of the state of Washington, where marijuana is legal and there are islands off the coast, he said.

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“What we asked . . . is that the Cannabis Control Commission specifically look at the legal concerns and hurdles and barriers that we think exist and recommend a way forward,” he said.

Geoff Rose, head of Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard, which has applied for a license to cultivate and sell medical marijuana, said an independent testing lab would be his last choice for a solution. He said he was “in the process of crafting some detailed proposals” but he wasn’t ready to make them public.

“Island living is challenging — never mind trying to open a business that is federally illegal on land surrounded by federal waters and controlled by federal aviation,” commission spokeswoman Dot Joyce said in a statement.

“The Cannabis Control Commission is aware of the many challenges these areas face and deliberatively conducted a listening session on Martha’s Vineyard this past month to learn more from those most affected,” she said. “While there may not be an easy solution to the federal challenges, nothing is impossible. The Commission will be looking at other possible solutions to help advance this industry in those areas of the commonwealth.”