New York has legalized recreational marijuana, after years of failed attempts and stalled efforts.
State lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that legalizes the drug for adults 21 and older and heads towards creating a potential $ 4.2 billion industry that could become one of the largest markets in the country. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill on Wednesday.
Is recreational marijuana legal in New York City?
Its use is now legal. The sale will also be legal, once the regulations are in place.
What does legalization mean for New Yorkers?
New Yorkers are now allowed to possess up to three ounces of recreational cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, such as oils derived from a cannabis plant.
Persons 21 years of age and over are permitted to use, smoke, ingest or consume cannabis products; they can also give them to others who are the same age.
At home, people will be allowed to store up to five pounds of cannabis, but they will need to take “reasonable steps” to ensure it is stored in a safe place.
There are penalties, ranging from a simple offense to a felony, for possession of more than the authorized amount of cannabis and for selling drugs without a license.
Where is marijuana allowed?
Liz Krueger, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, said people are legally allowed to smoke in public wherever smoking tobacco is legal. “Right now, the law that passes today, if you can smoke tobacco there, you can smoke marijuana there,” she said on Tuesday.
It is prohibited to smoke cannabis in schools, workplaces or inside a car.
Ms Krueger said localities, along with a new national cannabis agency, could create rules to more strictly regulate cannabis use in public. Smoking in public where not permitted will result in a civil fine of $ 25 or up to 20 hours of community service.
An officer, however, is not allowed to use the smell of cannabis as a justification for stopping and searching a pedestrian.
People are legally allowed to smoke cannabis in private residences, as long as the owner does not forbid you to do so, as well as in hotels and motels that allow it.
Club-type lounges or “consumption sites” where cannabis – but not alcohol – can be consumed will also be permitted in several months, when regulations are in place. Municipalities could choose not to allow these sites.
How can I buy it?
The law creates retail licenses, paving the way for physical dispensaries where people can purchase cannabis products. Locations can choose not to allow dispensaries and will have until the end of the year to do so.
Consumption in dispensaries will be limited to companies with an authorization for consumption on site.
The state will also issue licenses for the establishment of cannabis delivery businesses, meaning people will be able to have the drugs delivered to their homes, which localities could not block.
What about impaired driving?
It remains illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, just as it is illegal to drive while impaired by alcohol, and the police will still be able to arrest people they believe to be intoxicated.
An officer can use the smell of burning cannabis as a reason to suspect that a driver is under the influence, but he or she is only allowed to search those parts of the car that are easily accessible to the driver, so not the driver. trunk, for example.
Unlike alcohol, there is currently no easy way to quickly and reliably measure whether a person is under the influence of cannabis, especially since traces of the drug can remain in a person’s system. no one after the euphoria wears off.
So, under the new law, the health ministry will be required to examine emerging devices that could potentially allow officers to use a saliva test to detect if a driver is elevated.
What will change for medical marijuana patients?
The state’s existing medical marijuana program, first legalized in 2014, will undergo several changes aimed at making it less restrictive.
The list of covered medical conditions will be significantly expanded to include Alzheimer’s disease and muscular dystrophy. Patients will no longer be banned from smoking medical marijuana, and the current 30-day cap on patient supply will also be doubled.
Medical marijuana companies will be allowed to enter the more lucrative recreational market under certain circumstances, a move they have been pushing aggressively.
Will it be legal to grow marijuana at home?
Yes. For recreational purposes, users will be allowed to grow up to six plants at home, indoors or outdoors, and a maximum of twelve plants in total per household. However, they will not be allowed to do so until 18 months after the opening of the first adult-only clinic.
Patients with medical marijuana, or their designated caregivers, will also be able to grow the plants in six months.
When would legal marijuana sales begin?
The schedule for opening dispensaries and launching sales remains long. The law does not provide a precise timetable, but the first sales are not expected until at least 2022.
Officials must first determine how the industry will operate, from regulating and taxing sales to licensing growers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and delivery services.
A new state cannabis management office and a cannabis control board will develop and oversee the new regulations.
What disparities does this law seek to correct?
A 2018 New York Times analysis found that Hispanics in New York City had been arrested on low-level marijuana charges at a rate five times that of whites in recent years.
The imbalance was even more marked for blacks, who in Manhattan were arrested 15 times more than whites.
But polls have shown that blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates. And in neighborhoods where people called to complain about marijuana at similar rates, arrests were almost always made at a higher rate in the area with more black residents.
Authorities hope the new law will help end these disparities.
Millions of dollars in tax revenue from sales will be reinvested each year in communities affected by racially disproportionate drug policing. A significant amount would also be allocated to funding public education and drug prevention treatment.
A significant portion of business licenses would be reserved for minority business owners, disabled veterans, and farmers in distress, among others.
What happens to people convicted of marijuana?
People with certain marijuana-related convictions for activities that are no longer criminalized will have their records automatically deleted.
There is a precedent for such a decision: in 2019, more than 150,000 people convicted of low-intensity marijuana in New York had them removed from their records.
Why did it take so long?
Mr. Cuomo and the Democrats in the state legislature have made several attempts to legalize marijuana in recent years. But each time, the efforts collapsed.
In 2019, for example, the legalization plan collapsed as disagreements over how to regulate the industry and how revenues should be controlled, as well as the hesitations of moderate lawmakers, could not be overcome. .
Mr. Cuomo promised last January – and again this year – to finally push the bill over the line.
The efforts recently gained momentum, however, when they received a boost amid Mr. Cuomo’s recent scandals. Closing a legalization deal became a higher priority for the governor, according to several lawmakers and lobbyists, as he sought to distract from his aggravating crises.
The new momentum prompted Mr Cuomo’s team to concede many issues they had previously stood up to, such as how tax revenue would be distributed, leading to a deal that more closely reflected the wishes of Democratic lawmakers.
What about other states?
Just one more a dozen other states and Washington, DC, have taken similar steps.
In New Jersey, Governor Philip D. Murphy enacted three bills last month authorizing and regulating the recreational use of marijuana. It has become the most populous state in the Northeast to opt for legalization.
Penalties for minor possession have also been relaxed, with written warnings and referrals to community services instead of harsh fines or criminal penalties.
Legal sales in New Jersey, however, remain at least several months away.