Photo By Nout Gons

City Guides | 03.01.2024

New York’s Weed Legalization, Explained

Dispensaries in New York are finally up and running. Here's a complete update on New York's legal weed scene.

On March 31, recreational weed in New York state became legal. After years of promises and much expectation, it became the 15th state of the US to approve adult-use recreational marijuana. 

New York lawmakers voted to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. Less than 12 hours later, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation, finally legalizing weed in the state. 

“This is a historic day in New York – one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the state’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” he said in a statement

According to the Governor, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act could create up to 60 thousand jobs and generate $350 million in annual tax revenue for the state.

Plenty of New Yorkers took the streets to light up in celebration of one of the biggest wins for legal weed in the US in years, one that many believe is a big step towards federal legalization. 

Despite the excitement and the joints lit, it took far too long for dispensaries to open throughout the state. Now that they’re up and running, we’ve created this guide to give you an update on New York’s legal weed scene and what’s coming next. 

What Is The Office Of Cannabis Management?

The Office Of Cannabis Management is the entity responsible for executing a comprehensive regulatory framework managing medical and recreational cannabis.

It’s governed by a five-member board, with three members appointed by the Governor and one set by each house of the Legislature. It’s an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority.

Decriminalize Adult Use And Possession

After March 31, 2021, anyone over the age of 21 can possess and smoke marijuana in public. The legislation allows up to three ounces of dry herb or 24 grams of concentrates per individual.

This means that anywhere you could smoke tobacco in New York state, you can now smoke pot too. This is basically everywhere except your workplace, inside a car, or within 100 feet of a school.

Expansion Of The Medical Marijuana Program

Cannabis for medical purposes was already legal in the state. Still, lawmakers decided to extend the program. For medical marijuana users, it will be easier for them to be prescribed cannabis by a doctor.

Now, medical professionals can recommend cannabis for any condition. Besides, patients will be able to receive 60-day dosages, 30 more than they could before this historic legislation passed.

Expungement Of Cannabis Charges

Racial injustice and social equity were among the most significant issues this legislation wanted to address. 

In 2018, a study revealed that, in New York City, Black people were 8 times more prone to being arrested on low-level marijuana charges compared to white people, even when consumption rates are pretty similar for both races. 

Under New York’s cannabis law, a handful of marijuana offenses have been automatically expunged. Furthermore, since cannabis became legal in the state, the list of which records are automatically expunged has expanded, while other offenses must apply for expungement with the court. 

The state has automatically expunged most possession offenses, some criminal sale offenses, and personal cultivation of cannabis on private property for personal use.

Legal Sales & Dispensaries

This is one of the most craved aspects of the legislation, but unfortunately, it took some time, effort, and work. 

Let’s remember that New York state legalized recreational adult-use cannabis on March 31, 2021. It took until November 2022 for the state to approve its first 36 license holders, which finally prompted dispensaries to open doors. 

Legal cannabis is an entirely new industry in New York State, which is why legislators at the Office Of Cannabis Management took time to determine how it should operate. Between regulation of sales, taxes, and license allocation, there were lots to cover. 

One thing that separates NY from other states is the focus on equity regarding legal weed licenses. With equity programs, grants, loans, and incubators, New York State aims to prioritize licenses and funding for minority-owned businesses, people from over-policed communities, or people who have marijuana-related convictions.

Personal & Medical Cultivation On Private Property

At least it’s legal to cultivate your own cannabis at home, right? Well, home cultivation will only be permitted within 18 months of the first adult-use retail cannabis sale. Since that only happened recently, it’s still unclear whether it’s allowed yet.

Soon enough, if not now, New Yorkers of legal age are permitted to grow up to 6 cannabis plants on their private property for personal use. However, there can only be a maximum of twelve plants per household.

Plus, personal use cultivation requires 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants, so having 6 mature plants could land you a warning if authorities happen to discover them. Households can only grow 6 mature plants and 6 immature plants at a time, making for a total of 12.

Medical marijuana patients can bypass the wait time and get certified by a healthcare provider to grow medical marijuana on their private property.

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