New York State just legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over, making it the 15th state to legalize adult-use marijuana despite the fact that the substance remains illegal under federal law. The law, which supporters tied to a move to promote racial equity, also expunges marijuana convictions for actions that would be legal under the new legislation.
The New York State Senate and General Assembly passed the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” on March 30, and Governor Cuomo signed the bill on March 31. Although certain parts of the law went into effect immediately, others will be rolled out over time through regulations.
The law now allows individuals in New York to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational purposes or 24 grams of the drug’s concentrated forms. It also allows individuals to smoke cannabis in public wherever smoking tobacco is allowed. Smoking cannabis remains prohibited in schools, workplaces and inside a car.
Eventually, the regulatory framework for the adult use market is expected to permit individuals in New York to have cannabis delivered to their homes, use cannabis products at lounge-like “consumption sites,” and cultivate up to six plants at home for personal use. The Cannabis Control Board will craft those regulations, and the Office of Cannabis Management will implement them. Because of the time required to develop and promulgate those regulations, and to issue related licenses, most experts believe it will be about 10-14 months before individuals in New York will be able to legally purchase cannabis products.
As the legal adult-use cannabis market develops in New York State, it is increasingly important for entrepreneurs, residents, and local municipalities to educate themselves regarding the scope and details of the new law.
Businesses looking to enter the legal cannabis market would be wise to seek the counsel of trained professionals to stay up to date on, and in compliance with, those regulations. Legal guidance will be especially important given the Governor’s stated intent to establish stringent quality and safety controls, and strictly regulate packaging, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products.
And although the law grants localities the power to opt-out of allowing retail dispensaries or on-site consumption within their boundaries, it does not allow municipalities to completely opt-out of adult use legalization. Accordingly — through zoning codes and opt-out provisions — local governments retain significant ability to regulate the cannabis industry within their jurisdictions. Residents and local governments who have views on the subject of cannabis legalization should seek an experienced attorney to discuss their options.
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