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New York’s Recreational Marijuana Law

Recreational marijuana sales, which all started in 2012 in the pioneering states of Colorado and Washington, reached $12.75 billion in 2019 and jumped to $18.93 billion in 2020.A woman holds a small container of marijuana

Sales are expected to top $42 billion by 2026, according to data compiled and analyzed by the website statista.com. Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, and the territory of Guam have now legalized recreational cannabis consumption.

New York state joined the group in March 2021, and now allows adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational use, or up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis contained in oil and other derivatives. The legislation throws open the gates to what has been estimated to be a $4.2 billion statewide industry.

If you’re looking to get into the burgeoning recreational cannabis industry in New York, or just want to know how to exercise your rights, contact Lawrence M. Gordon, Attorney at Law, PC.

I have long served clients entering the liquor industry, and I am now tracking legal developments in the recreational marijuana industry. My firm proudly serves clients in Long Island, and the surrounding areas of Bellmore, Nassau County, and Suffolk County, New York.

Recreational Use Under the New Law

Though the law allows New Yorkers to smoke and consume cannabis and its derivative products, it is still not legal to sell the stuff. If you buy three ounces or less, you won’t be arrested or prosecuted, but the seller could if they’re not a medical marijuana dispensary. Rules and regulations for recreational dispensaries aren’t expected before 2022, perhaps late in the year.

If you want to purchase cannabis now, the best route is to get a medical marijuana prescription from your doctor. The new law expands the list of illnesses and conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Previously, you had to be suffering from cancer, chronic pain, or HIV/AIDS to get a prescription, but now anxiety, insomnia, muscular dystrophy, and Alzheimer’s also allow you to purchase medical marijuana. You can now also purchase up to a two months’ supply instead of just one month.

The new law will allow medical dispensaries to offer a wider array of products including whole flower (the dried bud of a marijuana plant) and more types of edibles. This offers consumers a lower-cost option since the smokeable flower is much cheaper than processed products, which can cost anywhere between $80 and $350.

You can also grow your own marijuana plants but you will need a medical marijuana prescription. You can grow up to six marijuana plants, three mature and three seedlings, or up to 12 plants if you live with another adult, beginning six months after passage of the new law. If you lack medical marijuana authorization, you must wait 18 months after the first public dispensary opens before you can grow the plants.

Where you can smoke is another issue. Generally, wherever smoking is permitted under New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act, you can also consume cannabis. Big exclusions apply, however. Workplaces, restaurants, bars, subways, ferries, and schools are off-limits. So is your rental if your landlord says no to your use. The penalty for smoking in off-limits places is a $25 ticket or 20 hours of community service.

Marijuana lounges are also envisioned under the new law. Consumption may also be allowed at retail dispensaries (once they open) if the proper licenses are obtained.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is still criminalized, though no one test has been approved or designated for testing if a driver is under the influence of cannabis. The problem is that, even after the high has worn off, cannabis can still be detected in your system. The Health Department is charged with looking into devices that test saliva levels to detect cannabis intoxication.

Conflicts Between State and Federal Law

While the feds will usually turn a blind eye to state-authorized recreational use, if you go out of state to purchase your weed and transport it back across state lines, you can be charged under federal law. You could face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison, depending on the amount you bring back.

Marijuana is still listed along with heroin on Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Thus, the manufacture, distribution, and sales of cannabis products can come under the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and even the FBI. If you possess cannabis on federal property – a courthouse, a park, a monument – you will fall under federal jurisdiction despite New York’s more lenient law.

Getting into the Cannabis Business

For now, the law mostly allows consumption of cannabis, but has not yet fully addressed the manufacture, distribution, and sale of the product. A state office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board is charged with drafting regulations governing the new industry.

The law is so written as to prevent out-of-state businesses from coming in and dominating the new market. It also contains provisions to award licenses based on “social equity,” that is, favoring women, minorities, disabled veterans, and distressed farmers.

Medical marijuana dispensaries appear to be the first in line to open their sales to the public. Others wishing to enter the industry will have to wait for regulations to be finalized. Meanwhile, localities have until the end of 2021 to opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries to operate in their communities.

The regulations are also expected to cover delivery businesses, so you can order cannabis and have it brought to your residence.

Working with an Experienced Marijuana Industry Attorney

Whether you’re looking to enter the marijuana industry, or just want to know your rights as a consumer, landlord, or employer, you can rely on the experience and knowledge of Lawrence M. Gordon, Attorney at Law.

I have helped countless others navigate New York’s liquor laws, and I am now turning my full attention to the emerging cannabis industry and its laws and regulations.

If you’re in Long Island or the surrounding communities of Bellmore, Nassau County, and Suffolk County, contact me today at Lawrence M. Gordon, Attorney at Law, PC.