New York Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • Marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational purposes in New York.
  • Residents must be above 21 years to possess recreational and medical cannabis. Medical cannabis is only available to eligible minors through their designated caregivers.
  • Marijuana possession limits for adult-use is 3 ounces of weed flower or 24 grams of marijuana concentrate; for medical use, eligible patients can own a 60-day supply as recommended by licensed physicians.
  • Each New York resident can grow up to six marijuana plants, while a household can grow up to 12 plants.
  • Exceeding the marijuana limitations in New York often lead to varying penalties, which may depend on factors like location and number of violations.

Is Marijuana Legal in New York?

Yes, marijuana is legal recreationally and medically in New York. New York legalized medical marijuana for residents through the Compassionate Care Act passed into law in 2016. Medical marijuana permitted the use, manufacture, delivery, transport, and administration of marijuana by patients and designated caregivers. Medical marijuana is only available to patients who have been certified by medical practitioners to suffer from certain illnesses.

On March 31, 2021, recreational marijuana was legalized for adult use through the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). The Act permits adults above the age of 21 to possess, purchase, obtain, and transport marijuana in limited quantities.

New York residents over the age of 21 are allowed to legally possess up to 3 ounces or 24 grams of concentrate. Qualifying patients for medical marijuana are also allowed to possess a 60-day supply at any given time. The amount of a patient's 60-day supply is determined by the recommendations of their licensed doctors. Residents of legal age in New York may grow up to three adult/flowering cannabis plants and three seedlings at a time. In a particular home, no more than 6 plants and 6 seedlings are permitted, regardless of the number of inhabitants. It should be noted that home cultivation is presently prohibited as the final rules for recreational home growing in New York have yet to be established.

It is permissible to smoke marijuana in public areas where cigarette smoking is permitted, but not in vehicles, schools, or workplaces.

New York Marijuana Laws in 2024

Effective March 31, 2021, Governor Cuomo legalized adult-use marijuana and provided for licensure of producers, distributors, and retailers throughout New York State. The legislature established the Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board, and authorizes the Board to regulate the licensure and establishment of New York cannabis retail dispensary licenses and on-site consumption licenses. The newly signed law makes substantial investments in communities and people most impacted by cannabis criminalization. It also reduces the illegal drug market and violent crime, ends the racially disparate impact of existing cannabis laws, creates new industries, reduces unemployment, and strengthens the state's agriculture sector among other goals.

Persons over the age of 21 may have three mature and three immature cannabis plants in their own home under the new law, with a maximum of six mature and six juvenile plants per private residence. Cannabis plants can be stored within the person's private residence or on the grounds of their private residence. Home growers are advised to ensure that cultivated cannabis is in secured places and inaccessible to persons below the legal age of 21.

In order to allow the regulated cannabis market time to flourish, home cultivation is not permitted until 18 months after the first recreational dispensaries operate. Certified medical cannabis patients over the age of 21 and their authorized caregivers, on the other hand, may grow cannabis for personal use beginning six months after the legislation's effective date..

New York counties, towns, cities, and villages can reasonably regulate personal cultivation of cannabis provided that a violation of any regulation approved by the municipality constitutes no more than an infraction and can be punished by no more than a discretionary civil penalty of no more than $200. Counties, towns, cities, and villages are permitted to prohibit individuals from engaging in personal cultivation.

Cities, towns, and villages can opt out of allowing retail dispensaries and on-site consumption through local law, subject to permissive referendum. They had until 9 months after the effective date of the legislation (December 31, 2021) to adopt local laws requesting the Cannabis Control Board prohibit the establishment of retail dispensaries and on-site consumption within their jurisdiction.

Because municipal legislation is subject to permissive referendum, voters have the ability to overturn the decision in certain cases. Voters who reject the legislation will have the chance to collect enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot and possibly overturn the government's decision in their towns. After December 31, 2021, no local legislation was allowed to be passed to ban these businesses; however, municipalities can enact a local law to remove previously established restrictions after this date.

The New York marijuana law imposes taxes on both the distributor and the customer. The distributor of recreational cannabis products pays a tax based on the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milligram in the product. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive ingredient that causes the "high" often associated with marijuana smoking or vaping. Cannabis flower is taxed at $0.005 per milligram, cannabis concentrate at $0.008 per milligram, and edible cannabis goods at $0.03 per milligram.

In addition, the state of New York levies a 9% tax on retail sales, with an additional 4% tax levied on the municipalities where the dispensary is situated. The 4% is distributed as follows: The county retains 1%, while the town, city, or village receives 3%. The county is responsible for allocating the remaining 3% to cities, municipalities, and villages on a quarterly basis based on the proportional share of sales by dispensaries in each jurisdiction. When shops are situated in villages where both the villages and towns allow cannabis retail sales, the 3 percent is divided according to an agreement between the town and the village. In the absence of an agreement, the 3% is divided equally between the town and the village.

After paying the expenses of administering New York State's legal cannabis program, the remaining income will be split as follows:

  • 40% goes to the Lottery Fund for education
  • 40% goes to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which would be used to promote social and economic equality initiatives as determined by the relevant authorities.
  • 20% to the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund, which would fund new drug treatment programs, health care services and initiatives, and public health campaigns to educate the public about responsible cannabis use.

In 2022, New York approved the first Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD). Businesses with these licenses will be the first to legally sell adult-use marijuana before the end of 2022 . Also, in February 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law creating the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator license and the Adult-Use Conditional Processor license. The Conditional Cultivator license authorizes qualified hemp growers to apply for a license to cultivate marijuana with over 0.3% THC, while the Conditional Processor license permits the processing of Adult-use cannabis products containing over 0.3% THC.

Timeline of Cannabis Law in New York

  • 1927: Cannabis was banned for both adult-use and medical patients in New York.
  • 1973: Rising drug offenses in New York compelled the then Governor Rockefeller to impose severe drug punishments. Popularly known as Rockefeller Drug Laws, the 1973 law punishes offenders possessing up to 4 ounces of weed with a sentence equivalent to second degree murder.
  • 1977: New York marijuana decriminalization began after the Governor signed a bill in 1977 to make 25 grams of weed possession an infraction with a $100 fine. The maximum fine for a second offense is $200, while the maximum fine for a third offense is $250, or 15 days in prison.
  • 2014: Senate Bill S7923 was signed by the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo which ushered in the New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program. The law kicked off in 2016 and it allows residents to buy medical marijuana if they have any of the qualifying conditions stated in the law.
  • 2018: Between 2018 and 2021, New York lawmakers made several attempts to initiate recreational cannabis legalization through the parliamentary process. However, each time, disagreements over how to divide tax revenue from cannabis sales (and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic) stood in the way of the legislation's advancement.
  • 2021: The NY Governor Cuomo signs the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act into law. The new law permits adult ownership and use of cannabis. The new law also opens the door for legal sales outside of the medicinal market. New packaging and lab testing regulations for cannabis hemp are adopted by state regulators.
  • 2022: The Governor passed a measure that authorizes qualified active hemp growers to apply for provisional, conditional license to cultivate and manufacture marijuana.

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2024

Although adult-use marijuana is now legal in New York and 18 US states, it is still prohibited at the federal level. In 2018, the US Farm Bill legalized use and cultivation of low-THC cannabis, also known as hemp. A year later, the US House of Representatives presented the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in a bid to legalize recreational and medical marijuana. The 2019 MORE Act was passed by the House in 2020 but failed to gain approval from the Senate. In 2022, the House moved forward with another MORE Act, which seeks to:

  • Remove cannabis from the illicit drugs list in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
  • Eliminate cannabis-related federal offense penalties.
  • Expunge previous marijuana convictions.
  • Permit other states to develop their own regulatory frameworks free from federal interference.
  • Prevent non-citizens from suffering immigration consequences as a result of using and possessing marijuana.
  • Stop federal organizations from refusing qualified applicants access to school loans, government benefits, or jobs because they consume marijuana.
  • Support community social services that have been impacted by the protracted war on drugs through a federal excise tax of 5% on marijuana sales.

Meanwhile, the US Senate is also working on its own marijuana legislation bill known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). Like the MORE Act, this bill will delist cannabis from the DEA’s Schedule 1 drugs and allow states to legalize marijuana without federal interference. The CAO Act will also resolve a number of issues that are currently plaguing legislated state cannabis markets. Examples of those issues include:

  • Lack of financial services accessibility.
  • Federal tax returns on marijuana establishments.
  • Absence of uniform federal administrative regulations and standards.

If enacted into law, the bill will promote inclusion and diversity among licensed business owners in supervised cannabis markets and designates cash to be reinvested in regions that have been unduly disadvantaged by the War on Drugs.

The US President has also helped increase the prospect of federal legalization by issuing a marijuana reform executive order in October 2022. The executive action will pardon persons convicted of simple marijuana possession and other states to carry out similar state pardons. President Biden also asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review how cannabis is scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.

Can I Use Cannabis?

Yes, people in New York can use cannabis as long as certain conditions are met. Per the MRTA, New Yorkers aged 21 and older can use, smoke, ingest or consume cannabis or concentrated cannabis products, including marijuana without being penalized.

Cannabis originates from the cannabis plant and contains the active ingredient delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which affects brain function. It is a drug that can alter perception and mood. Following the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), cannabis was outlawed for any use. Many believed cannabis was addictive and was linked to violent actions.

How The Legal Sale Of Cannabis In New York Happens

Currently, in New York, both recreational and medical marijuana are on sale. Persons purchasing medical marijuana can do so at state-licensed medical dispensaries by presenting medical marijuana (MMJ) cards and certificates. A photo ID may be required if the patient only has a temporary MMJ card. A patient certification is a form your practitioner issues to you when you have been approved to use Medical Marijuana. To obtain an MMJ card, a patient must reside in New York and have been diagnosed with one of the qualifying conditions by a registered practitioner.

Medical marijuana products authorized in New York include solid dose forms such as capsules, pills, and lozenges, metered liquid or oil for vaporization or oral administration, metered powdered cannabis formulations, transdermal patches, and topicals.

Currently, smoking and smokable forms are not allowed. THC and CBD edibles and gummies are also presently banned. Cash is frequently accepted as payment at many medical marijuana shops, so bring cash with you to dispensaries.

Caregivers may also get refills from medical outlets if they have their authorized caregiver cards. A caregiver is a patient's trusted friend or family who is allowed to buy medicinal marijuana items and deliver them to the patient. Registered patients must update their patient files with the New York State Department of Health to add a designated caregiver. The caregiver would also need to fill out an online application and accept the classification as a caregiver. Medical marijuana caregiver cards are usually sent to the authorized caregivers.

While your doctor may prescribe certain methods of THC delivery via the certificate, such as edibles and sublinguals, it is completely legal for the dispensary's pharmacist to recommend something different. You can also call your doctor while at the dispensary if you are not comfortable with what the dispensary recommends.

Although the New York State Medical Marijuana Program administers the state's medical cannabis program, it does not set the prices. The price of marijuana varies from patient to patient. Formulation, dosage form, the dose of medication, and the duration of therapy all play a role in the cost to be paid by a patient at the dispensary. Typically, patients spend between $50 - $350 on purchases. A bottle of tincture usually costs about $15-$50. Vape generally costs about $70-$85. A 30-day supply of pills typically costs over $200.

Penalties for Marijuana-related Crimes in New York

Under New York marijuana laws, a person convicted of a felony may have civil assets seized. There is also an obligatory suspension of the driver's license for 6 months for a youthful offender. Other penalties are as stipulated in the New York Marijuana Revenue and Taxation Act (MRTA). The penalties are as follows:

Possession And Cultivation In New York

  • Between 3 and 8 ounces is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to a 1-year jail term and a fine that may go up to $1,000
  • Between 8 ounces and 1 pound is considered a felony punishable by up to a 4-years prison term and a fine that may go up to $5,000
  • Between 1 pound and 10 pounds is considered a felony punishable by up to a 7-year jail term and a fine that may go up to $5,000
  • More than 10 pounds is considered a felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Possession of marijuana in public view is considered a violation and punishable by a fine of up to $200.
  • Cultivating marijuana of more than 6 plants is considered a misdemeanor punishable by 1 year in prison and a fine that may go as high as $1,000.

Possession With Intent To Distribute In New York

Possession with the intent of distribution of marijuana in New York carries the following penalties:

  • The sale of marijuana of 25 grams or less is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a 1-year prison term and a fine that may go up to $1,000.
  • The sale of marijuana of between 25 grams and 4 ounces is considered a felony punishable by 4 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000
  • The sale of marijuana of between 4 ounces and 1 pound is considered a felony punishable by 7 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000
  • The sale of marijuana of more than 1 pound is considered a felony punishable by a 15-year jail term and a fine that may go up to $15,000
  • Using a child to assist in the sale of marijuana is considered a felony punishable by a jail time of 4 years and a fine of up to $5,000
  • The distribution of marijuana to a minor is considered a felony punishable by an imprisonment term of 7 years and a fine that may go up to $5,000.

Residents can consume marijuana legally in private residences. Public consumption is addressed under the NYS Clean Air Act, which allows marijuana use anywhere tobacco is legal. However, the Act prohibits consumption on the premises of specific public locations, including parks, businesses, schools, and bus stations. Anyone found smoking marijuana in these locations in New York runs the danger of facing a $25 fine and performing community service.

Hash And Concentrates In New York

  • Possession of between 24 grams and 1 ounce is considered a felony punishable by 7 years in jail and a fine that may go as high as $5,000.
  • Possession of 1 ounce or more is considered a felony punishable by 15 years in jail and up to $15,000 in fines.
  • The sale of hash and concentrates is considered a felony punishable by 15 years in jail and up to $15,000 in fines.

Marijuana Paraphernalia In New York

  • Sale or possession of scales or balances for weighing or measuring marijuana is a crime punishable by one year in prison. A second violation would be deemed a felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and $5,000 in penalties.

Driving Under The Influence Of Marijuana In New York

Driving while intoxicated with marijuana is a criminal offense in New York. The term DWAI/Drug is used for New York DUI involving other drugs other than alcohol. Both DWI and DWAI/Drug in New York carry similar punishments, but there is no set threshold that must be detected in a person's system to warrant a DWAI/Drug prosecution.

Marijuana DWAI penalties in New York State include payment of fines, driving license suspension, and a possible jail sentence. The penalties vary according to the offense type and the individual's past record of similar offenses..

  • For a first offense, the criminal faces a fine of $500 to $1,000, a one-year jail sentence, and a likely six-month license suspension.
  • A second conviction carries a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, up to four years in state detention, and a maximum one-year license suspension.
  • Third-time offenders face a $2,000 to $10,000 fine, a maximum sentence of 7 years in jail, a minimum one-year driver's license suspension, and compelled usage of an ignition interlock device even after their license suspension has been removed.
  • If the violations are committed within a specified number of years, extra penalties, such as ultimate license revocation and greater fines and jail term, may be imposed.

Confiscation Of Assets In New York

According to NY Organized Crime Control Act § 480.05, violators risk forfeiting any assets involved in a marijuana felony offense. The exception to this rule is when the proceeds gained from the felony offense is far lesser than the assets forfeited. Examples of assets that may be confiscated include cars, houses, and cash.

Additional Limitations

Additional New York marijuana limitations include:

  • There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for persons caught trafficking marijuana in New York. This violation is considered a felony worthy of a $100,000 fine and can also be punished with a 25-year imprisonment term.
  • Juveniles convicted of the Federal Controlled Substances Act may get their driver’s license suspended for a minimum of six months.

Possible Remedies For Violators Of New York Marijuana Laws

New York cannabis possession convictions carry the least sentence, while marijuana trafficking carries stiffer penalties. Prosecutors frequently propose plea deals to violators who can provide vital information that could result in the capture of criminal organizations.

Violators who do not get plea bargains may be eligible for alternative sentencing programs in New York. To be eligible for this sentencing program, an offender must plead guilty to the charges and have a substance abuse problem proven to be the cause of the crime. If eligible, the presiding judge will give the offender the option of going to a New York Drug Treatment Court. Offenders who successfully complete the drug treatment program may have their charges reduced/dropped and their criminal records expunged.

There are other possible remedies for defendants of violating New York marijuana laws. Offenders not eligible for alternative sentencing and plea bargains can hire an experienced lawyer to defend their case in court. With the help of a lawyer, a violator can argue that they had no knowledge of the drug or that the police search was illegal. These arguments may lead to a case being dismissed or a lesser sentence.

What is New York's Cannabis History?

In the 1800s, marijuana was considered legal when it first appeared in New York. By 1906, the United States Congress had passed the Food and Drug Act, enabling residents of the United States to get marijuana prescriptions. However, marijuana was outlawed in all forms in 1927, after a story in the July edition of the New York Times of a family hurt by the use of marijuana plants.

The Mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia, formed a commission in 1939 to investigate the effects of marijuana. The committee, in its report, released in 1944 published that cannabis could not be associated with murders, other violent actions, and addiction. Still, the report was discredited by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics as "unscientific."

In 1973, the Rockefeller Drug Laws went into effect and stipulated strict penalties for persons caught selling two ounces or more of marijuana; a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 25 years in jail. By 1977, possession of marijuana in quantities of 25 grams or less was decriminalized, with violators only punished with a fine of $100.

Following a directive of the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio in 2014, the New York Police Department only issued tickets for small possession of marijuana even where the 1977 change in law stipulated arrests. This included instances such as cannabis entering "public view" during stop-and-frisk occurrences.

In 2015, New York passed the Compassionate Care Act which permitted marijuana for medical use. The Act provided for the number of licenses to be issued for medical dispensaries and permitted only patients suffering from certain illnesses to use medical marijuana.

Following recommendations from an impact assessment report published by the New York State Department of Health in 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo finally signed legislation permitting adult-use marijuana in the state on March 31, 2021. The legislation permitted adults aged 21 or older to possess up to 3 ounces or 24 grams of concentrated versions of the cannabis plant outside their homes.

What are Restrictions on Cannabis in New York?

While medical use and adult-use marijuana have been legalized in New York, it does not mean that there are no restrictions. Per the MRTA, the following are restrictions placed on marijuana use in the state:

  • No resident under the age of 21 is permitted to buy or use cannabis. Minors who require medical marijuana must have adult caregivers purchase marijuana on their behalf.
  • Public smoking of marijuana is only allowed where tobacco smoking is allowed
  • The selling of marijuana to minors is prohibited
  • Using a child in the sale of marijuana is prohibited
  • It is an offense to possess or sell more than 3 ounces or 25 grams of marijuana
  • New York residents cannot consume cannabis on federal lands or properties
  • Driving under the influence of cannabis is an unlawful act. Driving and smoking cannabis is considered "drugged driving" in New York.
  • New York residents are not permitted to take cannabis across state lines, even if they are moving to another state where cannabis is legalized.
  • Possession of cannabis with intent to sell without a license to do so is illegal
  • Adult-use dispensaries cannot be located within 500 feet of a school and 200 feet of a house of worship. Hence, consumption within these distances is illegal.
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New York Marijuana Laws