If you have been keeping an anxious eye on the headlines when it comes to weed legalization in New York, then you have recently experienced a sigh of relief. New York became the fifteenth state to legalize the plant and products made with it. It has been a long time coming, but lawmakers finally agreed on how to make recreational weed legal in the state. Read on to learn more details about when, where, and how it was legalized before your light up a joint in Empire State.
Weed was legalized in New York state on March 31st, 2021, with legislation taking effect that same day. However, there are many more steps the state has to take before recreational dispensaries are open for business. The state will work to set up rules and regulations regarding sales, manufacturing, and consumption with the proposed cannabis board. However, that process can take anywhere from 18 months to two years to complete. There are many details that are still to be determined, but there are some facts we already know.
The good news for those living in New York is that the NYPD is instructed to stop arresting people seen smoking weed in public. So, although you cannot buy weed at dispensaries yet, the legal risk of consuming it is now removed. The legislation does allow cities, towns, and villages, to opt out of adult-use retail dispensaries. It also allows them to not distribute consumption licenses to businesses, by passing a local law by December 31, 2021. But they do not have the choice to opt out of legalizing weed in general.
Although recreational consumption of weed is now legal in the state of New York, it is not technically legal to consume it everywhere you go. You are still not allowed to smoke in public parks, pools, or beaches. However, you will be fined $50 instead of being arrested if you are smoking in these areas. You are also not allowed to smoke in offices, restaurants, bars, subways, ferries, schools, or anywhere that you cannot smoke a cigarette. That means that you are left to smoke on sidewalks, streets, rooftop porches, and in your home. However, some landlords may still not allow smoking inside your rental. There are some natural gray areas to the current laws, but those will be worked out with time.
It is clear though that if you are twenty-one or older, you can legally possess up to three ounces of weed. There are no legal options for purchasing it in the state of New York quite yet though unless you are a medical patient with a prescription. It is also illegal to bring weed back with you from other states where legal recreational sales are up and running already. Transporting weed across state lines is still illegal according to federal law, and you could face a fine of $250,000 and up to five years in prison for doing so.
There are a few more details to understand about how this new law works. Until businesses are granted licenses to grow weed, manufacture it, and sell it to consumers, then you cannot buy weed in the state, legally. Although there are no longer consequences for having under three ounces in your possession, there may still be fines and jail time issued to those who sell it illegally within the state. In an estimated 18 months, hopeful New York business owners will be able to apply for licenses to open recreational dispensaries, consumption lounges, bakeries, restaurants, yoga studios, hotels, and wellness centers for weed. However, the same businesses cannot sell alcohol at the same time.
Since some New York medical dispensaries and companies have already gone through the legalization process, they are looking to transition to recreational sales too. But the state capped the ability for these established companies to do so at a max of three recreational dispensary licenses, with a total of eight dispensary companies allowed in the state. Also, two of the recreational dispensary companies must be located in underserved areas. The state is hoping to distribute licenses to businesses that are owned by women, people of color, distressed farmers, or disabled veterans as well.
Customers purchasing weed products from a recreational dispensary will have to pay an additional 13 percent tax. Nine percent of that tax is going to the state, two percent to the county, and two percent to the local government. What’s especially unique about the way New York legalized weed, is that there is an additional tax on consumers based on the amount of THC in the product. The tax will be different, depending on the product. For instance, flower will have an additional 0.5 cent tax per milligram of THC, while edibles will have a 3-cent tax per milligram. This tax revenue will be redistributed towards state schools, drug treatment initiatives, and community organizations that work in areas adversely affected by drug enforcement.
If you like the idea of cutting your purchasing costs and growing your own weed, that is within legal reach as well. Eighteen months after the first recreational dispensary opens its doors, you will be allowed to grow up to six plants. Half of them can be fully mature and the other half can be seedlings. You can also have up to 12 plants for personal consumption per household if you live with another adult who wants to grow their own. But how you get your hands on seeds or clones in the first place is still being worked out.
So weed is now legal in New York, but it is not quite legal for absolutely everyone to possess and consume. To start, recreational sales can only be made to residents or visitors who are twenty-one years old or older. There will be a facet of legalization that will also allow for the delivery of weed to customers, with the appropriate state licenses.
New York also expanded the list of medical conditions that are eligible for a prescription for weed, if you are looking to become a medical patient. This list previously included cancer, chronic pain, and HIV or AIDS as being just reasons for getting a prescription. Now the list includes many common ailments, including anxiety, insomnia, muscular dystrophy, and Alzheimer’s disease. If you are approved to buy weed for medical reasons, then there are currently ten medical companies that operate 38 dispensaries in New York. Previously, patients were only provided prescriptions for a limited number of oils, topicals, capsules, powders, cartridges, or gummies. But the new law also expanded the types of products offered at medical dispensaries to include flower too.
There are still a lot of steps to take in order to make weed available for purchase and consumption in the state of New York. But this legislation was a huge hurdle to get over in the first place. There is hope that members of historically marginalized communities will have more opportunities to participate in the legalized industry as business owners and operators. There are even state-funded loans, grants, and incubator programs being developed specifically for people of color, women, minorities, small farmers, and disabled veterans. Also, if you currently have weed-related charges in the state of New York then you can have these charges dismissed. It may take up to two years to expunge the records though, as the number of cases increases. However, many attorneys have ceased to prosecute low-level offenses related to weed.
There will be more regulations, rules, and processing times to come. But the day you can buy weed legally in New York at legal recreational dispensaries is just around the corner. For now, though, you can rest assured that possessing less than three ounces of weed or consuming it where you can smoke a cigarette is fully legal.
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