With a swipe of Governor Andrew Cuomo's pen, New York is now the 17th state to legalize recreational cannabis. Following a quick vote in the Assembly and Senate committees Tuesday, March 30th, the New York legislature passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act before sending it to Governor Cuomo, who signed it the next day.
Support of the Act
Since his reelection – when cannabis was a central issue in New York -- Governor Cuomo has been very vocal about his desire to legalize the plant. Cannabis was even part of the 2021 state budget until lawmakers decided to address it separately.
"For generations, too many New Yorkers have been unfairly penalized for the use and sale of adult-use cannabis, arbitrarily arrested and jailed with harsh mandatory minimum sentences. After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State," Cuomo said.
This legislation has proven that New York will make sure cannabis reform is the law of the land. Champion lawmakers and advocates have worked hard for the people impacted by prohibition, and New York has taken bold action to put a nail in the coffin of the war on drugs.
When Will It Take Effect?
The law will immediately take effect as of the Governor's signing. Still, experts predict New Yorkers will have to wait up to two years before they can start buying cannabis at local dispensaries. Likely sometime in 2022.
What Does the New Legislation Contain?
Here's what you need to know about what New Yorkers can do under the new cannabis law:
How the Cannabis Legalization Affects New Yorkers Today
- Right now: New Yorkers over 21 can possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrates.
- Right now: New Yorkers can smoke cannabis outdoors in the same areas where cigarettes are allowed. Since 2019, smoking cannabis in New York was only punishable by a fine. But as of the signing of this law, you can smoke cannabis anywhere you are allowed to smoke tobacco.
- Right now: Smoking in workplaces, schools, and cars is still illegal. The Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board might also create further regulations limiting where New Yorkers can smoke, and local municipalities can enforce stricter rules.
Right now: Cannabis offenses from non-violent convictions will start to be erased from criminal records. Lawmakers say they will automatically delete records of cannabis-related convictions and include any actions that are no longer criminalized.
How The Law Will Affect New Yorkers In the Near Term
- Soon: A new regulatory agency, the Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board, will be created to regulate the new industry. It isn't clear yet who they will choose, but lawmakers hope for a fast rollout.
- Soon: New York's medical cannabis program will expand by adding more qualifying medical conditions and product options to the list. Currently, flower products are not allowed under the state's medical program but will likely be permitted soon.
Soon: New York's over 21 will be allowed to grow cannabis at home. Adults will be able to grow up to six cannabis plants, with three mature and three immature plants per adult. Each home will be allowed a maximum of 12 plants total.
How The Law Will Affect New Yorkers in the Next Year or Two
- By the end of 2021: Localities will be able to opt out of having local cannabis businesses, and they have until the end of the year to make a decision. But they will not be able to opt out of legalization.
Sometime in 2022: New Yorkers will be able to go to a store and buy cannabis products.
Where Will New York’s Cannabis Tax Revenue Go?
The cannabis taxes will go directly into the New York State Cannabis Revenue Fund, which will be a new form of state money distributed across three areas:
- 20% to drug treatment
- 40% to community grants reinvestment fund
40% to education
Are There Any Concerns About the Law?
One of the main concerns is people driving under the influence of cannabis – a question that has stalled legislative progress for other states. New York will conduct ongoing studies on how best to manage traffic law enforcement and how it affects legal cannabis, but it's uncertain what it will look like.
How Does the Law Affect Medical Cannabis in New York?
The new law builds on the state's medical cannabis market experiences, which started in early 2016. Right now, ten licensed medical cannabis companies serve over 143,000 cannabis patients.
These licensed medical cannabis businesses will be able to join the adult-use market starting on a limited basis. Lawmakers are hopeful that their experience will help new cannabis business owners enter the new market.
At Medical Mike’s, we couldn’t be happier about New York’s decision to allow its citizens access to this uniquely therapeutic plant and to correct the injustices prohibition has put upon so many residents. We hope this decision will influence other states and the federal government to legalize this healing plant because everyone should have the right to access it.