New York Legalizes Recreational Weed Use & Legal Sales Are Coming Soon
Recreational marijuana use is now legal in New York, and it will soon be legal to sell it as well.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a groundbreaking bill into law and legalized weed use for adults 21 and older. New Yorkers may now possess up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, such as oils from a cannabis plant.
Specifically, the bill also allows residents to “use, smoke, ingest or consume cannabis products” and permits them to give share or give them to others over 21 years of age. New Yorkers can also keep up to five pounds of cannabis in their homes, but they must take “reasonable steps” to store it securely. They can also grow up to six plants at home, indoors or outdoors, and a maximum of twelve plants total per household beginning 18 months after the first adult-use dispensary opens.
Another powerful provision of the law is that it prohibits police from using the smell of cannabis as justification to stop and search a pedestrian.
The move opens the door to a potentially-huge $4.2 billion industry, in a state that could quickly become one of the nation’s largest markets. Reportely, the law reserves a “sizeable portion” of business licenses for minority business owners, disabled veterans, distressed farmers and more.
(via NYT): The law creates retail licenses, paving the way for brick-and-mortar dispensaries where people can purchase cannabis products. Localities can opt out of allowing dispensaries and will have until the end of the year to do so.
Consumption at dispensaries will be limited to businesses that have an on-site consumption license.
The state will also issue licenses for the creation of cannabis delivery businesses, which means people will be able to get the drug delivered to their homes, something localities would not be able to block.
On top of sheer sales — which aren’t expected to begin until at least 2022 — satellite businesses like club/lounges where people may publicly consume cannabis (but not alcohol) will soon be permitted, once New York finishes establishing state-wide regulations.
The bill is not a free-for-all, however. Lawmakers remain committed to establishing and upholding regulations. There will be strict penalties for possessing more than permitted amounts of cannabis and for selling it without a license. Residents also may not smoke cannabis in schools, workplaces or inside cars.
“…under the new law, the Health Department will be required to look at emerging devices that could potentially allow officers to use a saliva test to detect whether a driver is high,” notes The New York Times.
Penalties could range from simple violations to felonies, depending on the scope of the offense. According to the NYT, “smoking publicly where it’s not permitted will subject people to a civil penalty of $25 or up to 20 hours of community service.”
Also, local municipalities will have the option to pass stricter guidelines and even prohibit public consumption altogether.
Ultimately, state officials hope the new law will begin to end the racial disparities related to Brown and Black people regarding marijuana. As a 2018 New York Times study found, Black people had been arrested for low-level, weed-related crimes at 15 times the rates of whites in Manhattan. Hispanic people had been arrested five times more, despite all groups using marijuana at similar rates.
Now, people with certain marijuana-related convictions for activity that is now legal will have their records automatically expunged. On top of that, millions of dollars of marijuana sales tax revenue will be reportedly be reinvested in “communities affected by racially disproportionate policing on drugs” and “steered to fund public education and drug prevention treatment.”