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New York Has Legalised Cannabis: Here’s What to Know

After years of failed attempts, New York has finally legalised recreational cannabis, becoming the 15th state to do so. Late last month, a bill was approved that legalises the drug, paving the way for a potential $4.2 billion industry that could become one of the nation’s largest markets.

What does legalisation mean for New Yorkers?

New Yorkers that meet the age requirement are now allowed to use cannabis products and give them to others, providing they also meet the age requirement of 21 and older.

People can possess a maximum of three ounces (3oz) of cannabis for recreational use or 24 grams of cannabis concentrates (oils, shatter, and wax). If someone possesses more than the permitted amount or sells the drug without a license, penalties – ranging from a fine to prison time – will be issued. The New York Times reports that people are also expected to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that cannabis products are stored in a secure location.

People with cannabis-related convictions for activity that is no longer criminalised are to have such offences on their records immediately wiped.

Where is cannabis allowed?

Smoking cannabis is not permitted in workplaces, schools, or inside a car, but pretty much anywhere you can smoke tobacco, you can now smoke cannabis. Certain hotels and motels may permit cannabis use, and maybe even some landlords. Once regulations are in place in the coming months, some club-like lounges may allow the use of cannabis, although the public places in which you can now use cannabis may change over time.

If a police officer smells cannabis, they cannot use it as a justification to stop and search someone. However, a fine of $25 and up to 20 hours of community service will be issued to those who are caught smoking cannabis in prohibited places.

Wait, what about impaired driving?

It remains illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis, and the police can pull you over if they suspect impaired driving.

Is it legal to grow cannabis at home?

It will be, but not immediately. At home, indoors or outdoors, users will be allowed to cultivate a maximum of six plants each, and a total of twelve plants per household. But hold your horses, this only becomes legal 18 months after the first adult-use dispensary opens. For medical cannabis patients, however, it becomes legal six months from now.

So, when will the sale of cannabis be legalised?

The New York Times reports that some time has yet to pass before dispensaries can open and legal sales can begin. A specific timeline has yet to be provided, as it is necessary, first, for officials to determine how the industry will operate, but it is expected that legal sales will begin in 2022.

What difference is this law expected to make?

Officials hope that this new law will help put an end to imbalances between the treatment of racial groups in the policing of drugs. According to an analysis conducted by The New York Times in 2018, in recent years, Hispanics in New York City have been arrested on low-level cannabis charges five times more often than white people. Black people in the city have suffered from an even greater imbalance, having been arrested at 15 times the rate of white people, despite surveys showing that black and white people use cannabis at similar rates.

Under the law, 40% of tax revenue – that’s millions of dollars – from cannabis sales is to be reinvested each year in communities affected by racially disproportionate policing of drugs. Additionally, 20% will go towards public education funding and drug treatment.

What about other states?

Over a dozen other states, and Washington, D.C., have taken similar steps. Recently, New Jersey became the most populous state in the Northeast to permit and regulate the use of recreational cannabis, although legal sales will not be permitted for several months. The state has also eased penalties for underage possession, now issuing individuals with community service and written warnings, as opposed to harsh fines and criminal punishments.

Want to learn more about cannabis? There is more to read on our cannabis information page and on our previous blog posts.

This blog post was written by Monique Rosa McClymont -

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