New York legalized recreational marijuana. Here's how much you can now possess
ALBANY – New York has become the 15th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, immediately allowing anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to three ounces even though legal sales remain at least a year off.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act into law Wednesday afternoon, a day after the state Legislature approved it by a wide margin.
The new law will create a new Office of Cannabis Management to set up regulations and licensing for cannabis growers, processers and sellers, even paving the way for lounge-like stores where people can use marijuana products on site.
"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 Empire State's economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits," Cuomo said in a statement.
Here's what just became legal, and what remains a ways off:
How much weed are you allowed to possess in NY?
Effective immediately, it is legal for anyone 21 or older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis in New York — at home or in public.
If you have a concentrated form of cannabis (like an oil), you can legally possess up to 24 grams, according to the new law.
More specifically, the law allows those 21 and older to possess, obtain, purchase, or transport cannabis up to three ounces.
But selling it remains off limits for the time being, putting the state in something of a gray area: It's legal to buy and possess up to three ounces of marijuana, but it's still illegal (for now) to sell it.
"At this point, if you are just possessing it or if you're buying it, those aren't crimes anymore unless it's over the legal amounts," said Emma Goodman, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society's special litigation unit.
Eventually, it will be legal to possess up to five pounds of marijuana at your private residence. (More on that in a bit.)
When will dispensaries open in NY?
In theory, legal marijuana sales at licensed dispensaries and on-site consumption spaces can't begin until April 1, 2022, at the absolute earliest.
In practice, it will likely be longer than that.
The law's tax structure — a 13% tax on retail sales, plus a per-flower and potency tax on distributor-to-retail sales — doesn't take effect until April 1, 2022. That means, in theory, sales could start then.
But there are many things that have to happen before then.
The governor and legislative leaders need to make appointments to a state board that will oversee the Office of Cannabis Management. The governor has to pick an executive director of the office.
The office will have to come up with a host of regulations that will guide the licensing of growers, distributors and sellers. Then the state will have to go through the licensing process. Growers will have to grow; dispensaries will have to be set up.
When all that happens? Then legal sales can start. It will take some time.
Can I smoke weed in NY now? Where?
The new marijuana law equates cannabis products to smoking and vaping tobacco under the Clean Indoor Air Act, which limits where smoking can and can't occur.
That means, for the most part, you can smoke marijuana anywhere you can legally smoke cigarettes.
But there are some significant exceptions.
The new law says you cannot use cannabis products while inside your personal vehicle, unlike cigarettes. Nor can you use marijuana in a dedicated smoking area of a restaurant, bar or any other food service establishment, including on their outdoor patio.
You can't use marijuana at a cigar bar, according to the new law. Nor can you at tobacco shops or e-cigarette stores.
Smoking of any sort remains prohibited at a variety of indoor and public locations under the Clean Indoor Air Act, including places of employment, bars, indoor and most outdoor areas of restaurants, public transportation, school grounds and general hospitals, among other places.
Also, marijuana remains illegal on the federal property. If you're caught possessing cannabis on federal property or transporting it over state lines, you could face penalties.
Can I grow marijuana in NY at my home? How much?
Eventually, you will be able to grow cannabis at your home. But it will be quite a while before it's allowed.
Under the law, each New York resident age 21 and older can grow up to three mature and three immature plants at their home or on their property, up to six mature and six immature plants per household.
But home grow won't be allowed for certified medical marijuana patients until the state issues regulations for it, no later than six months from now. And for all other growers, it won't be allowed until no later than 18 months after the first legal marijuana sales take place in New York.
So if you're not a certified patient in the state's medical marijuana, you won't be able to start growing until late 2023 at the absolute earliest — and possibly into 2024 or even 2025.
Once the home grow provisions take effect, New York residents will be able to keep up to five pounds of marijuana in their home legally — though they will still only be allowed up to three ounces outside their home.
Jon Campbell is the New York State Team editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
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