Legalization of marijuana in NY


How people view marijuana has evolved over the years. Initially, it was treated as an evil substance, but now people have so many positive things to say about this drug. In fact, several US states have legalized it to be used for medical purposes.


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Probably you are asking yourself where New York stands with regards to cannabis legalization. This is a genuine concern given that some states have previously maintained the traditional perception of the drug.


History of Marijuana in New York


New York is one of the states that allow for marijuana use. The state legalized marijuana in 2014 provided that its uses, possession, production, transportation, and administration be handled by an approved caregiver.


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Following its legalization, the state developed a regulatory framework for managing the drug. The law mainly covers the use of marijuana for medical reasons. The legislatures were unable to agree on whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Nonetheless, the New York State legislature included provisions that decriminalized the drug.

Immediately after the new marijuana laws came into effect, records of past minor cannabis offenses were scraped. The regulations modified the definition of smoking. This was necessary to reduce the impact of marijuana law on different communities.

Now that we have covered the basics, please read on to find out more about the legalization of marijuana in New York.


The Status of Medical Marijuana in New York


Given that medical marijuana is legal in the state, patients with some critical illnesses can buy this drug for medical use.

These patients were probably happy when Governor Andrew Cuomo put into paper the Compassionate Care Act. The law gives powers to doctors to prescribe marijuana to these patients. Note that they can only prescribe it in a non-smokable form.

The signing of the law added New York to a list of 22 other states that had legalized marijuana till 2014. However, 9 more states have joined the list thereafter.

According to the New York version, patients with serious conditions should be certified by a qualified physician, and then be given a card that will allow them to purchase medical marijuana.


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Requirements to Obtain Medical Marijuana Card in New York


While New York passed the marijuana legislation in 2014, the law will only last for 7 years. Thereafter, the lawmakers will review the status then renew it or act accordingly. With that said, here are the main conditions that you must be diagnosed with  before you can be issued with an MMJ card:

  1. Cancer
  2. Epilepsy
  3. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  5. Huntington’s disease
  6. Neuropathy
  7. Severe pain
  8. Inflammatory bowel disease
  9. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  10. Parkinson’s disease
  11. Spinal cord injury
  12. Opioid use disorder or substance abuse
  13. Multiple sclerosis
  14. A chronic or life-threatening illness that is accompanied by these symptoms or conditions:
    • Seizure
    • Severe pain
    • Chronic nausea
    • Wasting syndrome or Cachexia
    • Intense muscle spasms


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Who Regulates Marijuana Use in New York?


Marijuana affairs in New York are overseen by the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP), a unit under the Department of Health. The MMP regulations control the cannabis medical registry, which is concerned with certification, procurement, and distribution of marijuana to patients and caregivers. It also regulates the registration and certification of medical marijuana professionals and dispensing facilities.


Rules Regarding Purchase of Medical Marijuana in New York


The legislation stipulates the following:

  1. Only state-approved facilities can sell medical marijuana to qualifying patients within the state. Some of the state-regulated organizations may also offer online services to these patients.
  2.  Patients can buy medical marijuana equivalent to 30 days’ supply of the prescribed drug. Of course, this may be affected by the limitations issued by the practitioner. For effective monitoring, patients should inform the New York State Prescription Monitoring Program office of all the purchases.
  3. Approved caregivers can purchase medical marijuana on behalf of their clients.
  4. Certified patients may only use non-smokable forms of the drug such as oils, liquids, capsules, sprays, and vaporizer products within the stipulated time frame, which is usually 30 days.
  5. The Department of Health limits edibles. However, food growers and processors can formulate food products that are infused with CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Note that any other means that contradict the above regulations is treated as an illegal sale.


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Rules and Layout Regarding the Possession of Marijuana in New York 


New York discourages illegal possession or use of marijuana.


  1. The law doesn’t allow anyone to possess any amount of marijuana in public view. Breaking this law will lead to a maximum penalty of $250 and three months in jail. Be aware that police officers often use this loophole to trick citizens into showing their marijuana so as to arrest them. The authorities have acknowledged the practice and promised to curb it.
  2. Possession of marijuana that is slightly less than an ounce and less than 25 grams is still considered an offense in New York. Committing this offense for the first time will attract a $100 fine. For second-time offenders, they will be fined $200. Going beyond this, you will be fined $250 plus a possible 15 days in jail.
  3. Anyone with more than 25 grams but less than 2 ounces in New York will be fined $500. On top of this, the culprit will spend three months in jail. For possession of between 2 – 8 ounces, offenders will be jailed for 1 year plus a $1000 fine.
  4. If the amount is between 8 ounces and 1 pound, the state considers it as a felony, which means that it carries a top penalty of $5000 plus four years in jail.
  5. Possession of more than 1 pound but less than 10 pounds will attract a 7-year jail plus $5000 in fines.
  6. Finally, anyone with more than 10 pounds carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail plus $15000 in fines.
  7. Besides these punishments, let’s also look at the future prospects of recreational use of marijuana in New York.


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Where to Get Medical Marijuana in New York?


Use of Marijuana for Recreational Purpose in New York


As mentioned earlier, the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is considered illegal in New York. Be that as it may, the state also decriminalized the drug not long ago. For some marijuana enthusiasts living in the state, this was a much-awaited relief. We will dig deeper a bit into some of the events that led to the momentous turn of events.

The Government Took the Following Steps to Legalize the Recreational Use of Weed

  1. While reading his State of the State Address in 2018, New York Governor Cuomo requested the Legislature to appropriate funds for the study of the impact of legalizing cannabis for recreational use.
  2. The Legislature heed to the request and the research was conducted by the Department of Health. The study focused on several issues, including the economic, social, and legal consequences the state will have to deal with for legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
  3. Upon completing the study, the Department of Health gave a green light for legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. According to their recommendations, the Department felt that New York stands to benefit from legalization. They cited public health, economic and public safety benefits.
  4. Following these recommendations from the Department of Health, New York decided to legalize marijuana for recreational use. To show its commitment, the administration proposed to include the marijuana legalization proposal in the 2019 budget plan. Similar allocations were made in the 2020 budget.
  5. To complete the legalization process, the state legislature then amended the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act Bill. The law will allow and regulate the use of marijuana in the state.


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Cultivating Marijuana in New York


  1. While New York has allowed for the use of marijuana for medical use, it doesn’t allow any cultivation of medical or recreational weed.
  2. Any person found growing or in possession of marijuana will be prosecuted. What this means is that the number of charges or punishment will depend on the degree of cultivation or possession.
  3. The state also restricts the sale, possession, or use of marijuana paraphernalia. These include equipment used in the cultivation, treatment, harvesting, storage, processing, testing, analysis, or consumption of marijuana.
  4. Since New York discourages the cultivation of marijuana, it has allowed only a few licensed growers. These cultivators are allowed to run not more than four dispensaries each.


Other Recent Legislations that Touches New York Medical Marijuana Legalization


Not long ago, New York amended its marijuana laws to expand the decriminalization of the drug. The 2019 amendments touched on the recreational use of marijuana, but it did not legalize it.


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In his 2020 State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo made a strong case for the legalization of marijuana. If the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t persisted this long, all indications pointed out that the legalization could have been enacted in January. The coronavirus shifted the priorities of both the Governor and the Legislature. For this reason, marijuana legalization was never considered in the state budget that was passed in April of this year.


Closing Remarks 


As we conclude this post, it is important to appreciate the progress made towards the legalization of marijuana in New York. As we go into the future, it is likely that the state will legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. In fact, the pressure to legalize marijuana in the state is on the rise. The public is really pushing this agenda, so the next governments will most likely treat it as an issue of importance.


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Stakeholders need to realize that it is no longer effective to use biased and unjust means to restrict the use of marijuana in New York. Some of the laws put forward to regulate the use of the drug need to address racial and economic injustice. Specifically, the state needs to invest more in communities that have been severely affected by cannabis criminalization. Through smart regulation, New York can build a diverse and equitable industry that takes care of the well-being of all .


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