Marijuana in New York is legal for medical and recreational use. New York citizens aged 21 and older are allowed to possess up to 85 grams or 3 ounces of cannabis or 24 grams and 0.85 ounces of concentrated cannabis.
Medical marijuana was legalized in 2016 under the New York Compassionate Care Act. The Act, also known as S7923, authorized patients and approved caregivers to own, consume, produce, distribute, transport, and administer medicinal marijuana. As part of efforts to expand New York's medical marijuana program, the Department of Health stated in 2017 that patients may now take medicinal marijuana in a variety of new methods, making it simpler for prospective patients to get access to registered dispensaries. Until then, New York's medical marijuana offerings were mostly limited to liquids and oils for vaporization and capsules to be taken orally. Now, medical marijuana is available in chewable tablets, lozenges, and ointments.
The medical marijuana program registry is a program that allows patients in New York to register for identity cards and get access to cannabis from authorized shops. The medical marijuana program is administered by the Department of Health and oversees the certification, purchasing, and dispensing for patients and caregivers. Registered patients may hold up to 60 days supply of approved medical cannabis products at any time. Certified patients in New York can purchase medical cannabis from state-regulated organizations operating dispensaries in any New York location.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in New York in March 2021.The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) enables people 21 and older to possess, buy, exhibit, acquire, and transport marijuana in restricted amounts. Although the MRTA took effect immediately, the sale of recreational-use marijuana is not expected to become legal until sometime in 2022. The MRTA also creates the Office of Cannabis Management to set standards, license, inspect, and enforce the laws with respect to marijuana businesses in New York State.
The MRTA stipulated penalties for possessing more than the legal limits of cannabis. These penalties include:
Although you may now possess certain amounts of cannabis, it is illegal to sell cannabis unless you possess a license for a medical dispensary. Penalties include:
Recreational marijuana purchases will require the provision of valid photo IDs that establishes the buyers are of the legal age to purchase cannabis. New York has no specific law exempting felons from using marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.
Smoking or vaporizing approved medical cannabis products is illegal in places where tobacco smoking is prohibited in New York. Individuals are not permitted to vaporize a medical marijuana product within 100 feet of public or private school grounds, unless on private property. Consuming medical cannabis is also prohibited in motor vehicles on public and private roads or parked in any lot. It is illegal to transport marijuana products outside of New York.
Following the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York in 2021, the cannabis industry has been growing substantially, with more licenses issued for dispensaries, and more consumers exiting from the unregulated market. According to the marijuana legalization impact assessment report, the cannabis industry is projected to generate potential tax revenue of more than $350 million annually and up to 60,000 jobs.
To estimate potential tax revenues, the average retail price of marijuana in New York State was used in the 2018 report. The average retail price for marijuana was reported as $270 per ounce for medium quality strains and $340 per ounce for high-quality strains. The report also estimated that purchases of illegal marijuana in New York State at 6.5 to 10.2 million ounces annually.
Based on the analysis and assumptions made in the report, the estimated potential total tax revenue in the first year ranges from $248.1 million (with a 7% tax rate) to $340.6 million (with a 15% tax rate). In another less conservative estimate included in the report, estimated potential tax revenue ranged from $493.7 million (with a 7% tax rate) to $677.7 million (with a 15% tax rate). In all, the impact of the cannabis industry is expected to multiply through the New York economy generating up to a total of $4.1 billion a year in economic activity for New York State.
While the impact assessment report published in 2018 used tax estimates of between 7% and 15%, New York State eventually settled on a 13% tax on retail marijuana. Tax revenues generated are expected to cover the costs required to administer the legal cannabis program in New York State. Beyond that, the remainder is divided in the following ways:
In New York, marijuana possession generally covers possession in public view or burning in public, possession of between 25 grams and two ounces, and possession of between 2 and 8 ounces. However, marijuana sales cover purchases of under 25 grams or less than one ounce of the product. Marijuana possession, as opposed to the sale, accounts for the vast majority of misdemeanor marijuana arrests. According to a report on marijuana enforcement in New York State, marijuana possession accounted for 87.1% of misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York State, while marijuana sales accounted for the rest 12.9%.
In New York City, the arrest rate for marijuana possession was 21 per 100,000 in 1990, 956 per 100,000 in 2000, and 311 per 100,000 in 2017. In upstate cities, the arrest rate was 63 per 100,000 in 1990, 324 per 100,000 in 2012, and 126 per 100,000 in 2017. The arrest rate in the rest of the state gradually rose from 25 per 100,000 in 1990 to 82 per 100,000 in 2017, the highest rate throughout the research period. The report also indicated that the highest arrest rate for marijuana possession was among 18-20 year-olds for many locations in New York State.
With recreational marijuana only recently passed in March 2021, there are currently no sufficient statistics to indicate current marijuana crime trends in light of the new legislation. However, the New York State marijuana legalization impact assessment report anticipates an overall reduction in marijuana possession and sale arrests in the future.
In New York, having a medical marijuana (MMJ) card enables you to buy cannabis products from licensed dispensaries. An MMJ card will also shield qualified patients from criminal prosecution or arrests for marijuana possession. To be eligible for an MMJ card in New York, you must meet the following requirements:
A patient must produce one of the following proofs of residence to establish current residency in New York State:
A temporary resident who is receiving treatment in New York for a qualifying medical condition may demonstrate residency by providing a utility bill, hospital bill, lease, or other documents as approved by the Department of Health.
Patients in New York may acquire medicinal marijuana cards if they have one or more of the following conditions:
After determining your eligibility, you must find a licensed practitioner who participates in the New York Medical Marijuana Program. The participating physician, physician's assistant, or nurse practitioner will verify that you qualify and then provide you with a patient certification. Upon obtaining the certification, you must complete an online patient application for the medical marijuana program. After the approval of your registration, you will be given a temporary registry identity card, which you may use in conjunction with a government-issued picture ID card while you wait for your registry ID card to arrive in the mail. Your patient or caregiver registration ID card may take up to 7 business days to arrive in the mail.
Marijuana was allowed in New York when it first emerged in the 1800s. However, the drug's legal position in the state has changed many times since then. In 1906, Congress approved The Food and Drug Act, which allowed citizens in New York to have a prescription for marijuana. Following a July 1927 New York Times story of a whole family being injured by the consumption of marijuana plants, the substance was outlawed in all forms across the entire state.
In 1939, New York Mayor Fiorelli LaGuardia assembled a committee called the LaGuardia Committee to determine the effect of marijuana in the community. The committee released its report in 1944 and indicated that cannabis was not widely associated with addiction or violent behavior. However, the report was branded unscientific by the commissioner of the now defunct Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Named after the governor, the Rockefeller Drug Laws went into effect in 1973, with stricter penalties prescribed for anyone selling two ounces or more of several different substances, including marijuana. The stricter penalties included a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 25 years in prison. Later in 1977, possession of marijuana in quantities of 25 grams or less was decriminalized. Possession of that amount of marijuana was decreased to an infraction that merited only a fine of $100. Note that this did not include possession of marijuana while in public view.
In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio directed the New York Police Department (NYPD) to only issue tickets for small possession of marijuana even in cases where the 1977 law prescribes arrests, such as cannabis entering "public view" during stop-and-frisk occasions.
In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved legislation that would allow for the use of medical marijuana. The legislation went into effect within 18 months and formed a program to provide medical marijuana to patients provided it was not the inhaled form of the product. The legislation also included the number of marijuana licenses to be provided. Five marijuana licenses were granted, with each licensee permitted to operate four dispensaries.
In 2018, Governor Cuomo asked the Department of Health to look into the social, economic, and legal consequences of the legalization of recreational marijuana. On completion of the study, the report recommended the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Finally, on March 31, 2021, New York joined 15 other states by legalizing recreational marijuana when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York State Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). Adults 21 and older may now possess up to three ounces of marijuana or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis plants outside their residences, according to MRTA rules. The newly created Office of Cannabis Management has been tasked with enforcing the regulations governing the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York State.