New York signed the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) into law on March 31, 2021, legalizing adult use of cannabis in the Empire State. New York has had a medical cannabis program since 2016, and now adults 21 years of age and older can also legally possess and purchase cannabis in the state.
Recreational Cannabis in the State of New York
Since the passing of MRTA in 2021, recreational cannabis is legally for sale in the state of New York, including Native American reservations through dispensaries approved by the state. Adults can legally vape or smoke cannabis anywhere smoking tobacco is allowed according to the Smoke Free Air Act (SFAA) with some exceptions. The SFAA prohibits smoking or vaping electronic cigarettes, including cannabis, in public places in most workplaces. Using smokeless tobacco is also prohibited at sports arenas and recreational events where tickets are issued.
The passing of MRTA created Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) in New York and a Cannabis Control Board to regulate all medical and adult use cannabis and hemp. The OCM is responsible for developing regulations and issuing licenses for businesses participating in the industry.
The new law also prohibits employers in the state of New York from testing current and prospective employees for the use of cannabis in prohibits discrimination towards employees that use cannabis outside of working hours. Also included in the passing of the MRTA is the expungement of previous cannabis-related criminal records for offenses that would now be considered legal.
Recreational Cannabis Laws in New York
Adults 21 years of age and over in New York are now allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 g of cannabis concentrate. Cannabis is prohibited for use, possession, or sale by anyone under the age of 21. It is also against the law for anyone to use cannabis while driving a motor vehicle or to drive while under the influence or impairment of cannabis.
Language is included to allow adults to grow up to three mature plants and three immature plants in their home, although regulations have not yet been finalized and put in place to allow home growing for recreational use.
Home Cultivation of Recreational Cannabis
Language in the MRTA allows for the home cultivation of cannabis by adults 21 and older to grow up to six players total, with a limit of three mature, budding plants. Twelve plants per household, with six mature and six immature plants, will be the maximum allowed. Regulations for home cultivation were set to be in place within 18 months after the first retail sale of adult-use cannabis, which was set to take place in September 2021.
The first legal sale of adult-use cannabis did not actually take place until late December 2022, however, which means that regulations regarding home cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use may not actually roll out until July 2024. New York state officials have said that the delay was partly designed to prevent an abundance of cannabis that would impede the success of newly opened retail dispensaries. Many merchants and adult residents, however, have not waited for regulations but have contributed to a booming underground marketplace.
Home Cultivation for Medical Cannabis Patients
Currently, home cultivation of cannabis in New York is allowed only for medical cannabis patients. Home growing for medical cannabis patients was authorized last September when regulations approved growing for patients who are already purchasing products from state-approved dispensaries. Medical cannabis patients in New York can grow up to three mature plants and three immature plants, or they may allow designated caregivers to grow for them.
A medical cannabis patient in New York can possess up to 5 pounds of cannabis cultivated from homegrown plants in addition to the total of six plants allowed for growing, with only three being mature. Mature is defined as a plant that is in the flowering stage with visible buds. It is worth noting that growing cannabis, even as a medical cannabis patient, in any federally funded public housing facility can result in the loss of housing support. This is due to the fact that cannabis is still not legal on a federal level.
New York State Hemp Farmers Bill
In 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law that allows New York State hemp farmers to begin growing cannabis crops legally. This change to allow existing hemp farmers to start cultivating cannabis in New York was an attempt to jumpstart a safe and equitable new industry of adult-use cannabis and to promote equity in the emerging industry.
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