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Massachusetts Eyes Rule to Get Marijuana to State’s Islands


One untested federal regulation may help the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission get legal marijuana to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, which delivery services can’t serve because they aren’t part of the mainland. Marijuana is legal on the islands, but the airspace and water surrounding them operate under federal law.

If Pilots currently risk delivering marijuana to these islands, they might lose their licenses, according to The Boston Globe. Dispensaries located on these islands can’t have their product shipped to them. Those operating on the islands, especially cultivators and processors, can’t ship products to the mainland for required testing.

There might be a loophole though, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 1972 rule – knowingly carrying illegal substances, but it “does not apply to any carriage of narcotic drugs, marijuana [sic], and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances authorized by or under any Federal or State or by any Federal or State agency.”

So, what this says is that pilots can take marijuana from the mainland to the two islands because they’d be protected by Massachusetts state law. Steve Hoffman’s office is exploring the FAA rule further.

The Cannabis Control Commission was unaware of the rule until it learned that Tom Angell discussed it in an article in October.

Valerio Romano, a pro-marijuana attorney, said, “It allows you to sell on the island but cultivate on the mainland, where you don’t have to burn water and electricity at inflated island rates.”

The issue, however, is cost for transporting legal marijuana to the mainland for testing. Some companies, expected to open retail locations on the islands, want to cultivate there and test there.

Commercial airlines won’t allow marijuana, legal or not, on its planes – so carrier options also plays a factor in the issue.

One airline, however, says it will work with the industry. Dan Wolf of Cape Air said, “If safe, legal, and compliant, we will carry it. Right now, [marijuana] is neither legal or compliant.”

Some have said that flying marijuana from one location to another already takes place in Alaska. There are claims that local law enforcement agencies know, but the airlines are not made aware of what’s being shipped. If a pilot isn’t aware of his/her shipment, they’re not “knowingly transporting.”

Some suggest that steamboat transportation from the mainland to the islands, and vice versa, is a more cost-effective method.

The commission will examine the 1972 FAA rule, along with practical shipping methods. One of their hurdles right now is getting the new industry to the islands to maintain compliance with Massachusetts law. The office is likely to seek clarification by the FAA before moving forward.