Press Release

New York to Become the 16th State to Legalize Cannabis

Mar 30, 2021

New York to Become the 16th State to Legalize Cannabis

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Contact: Violet Cavendish

State Legislature Approves The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act; Bill Now Heads to Gov. Cuomo’s Desk

Albany, NY — Today, the New York Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) received final approval from state legislators. The bill now proceeds to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who is expected to sign it into law.

Following the governor’s signature, New York will become the 16th state to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over. New York will be just the third state to adopt a legalization policy by passing a bill through its state legislature, joining Illinois and Vermont. Thirteen additional states have legalized by voter initiative. 

“We applaud the New York Legislature and the tireless work of advocates for their commitment to ending cannabis prohibition through a social justice-centered approach. We expect 2021 to be a record-breaking year for legislatures legalizing cannabis. More than two-thirds of Americans believe it’s time to end prohibition and this move represents the latest example of elected officials joining the chorus of support for legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project.

Under the legislation, it will be legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrate, plus adults can grow a maximum of three mature plants and three immature plants once regulations are adopted. Additionally, the bill includes provisions for automatic expungement, community reinvestment, and measures to ensure the industry includes communities that have been disproportionately targeted by cannabis enforcement. A summary of the MRTA is available here.

“This is a huge victory for the Empire State. This bill’s passage is a monumental step forward towards addressing and repairing the harms caused by cannabis criminalization. Far too many New Yorkers, especially in Black and brown communities, have faced the injustice of cannabis-related arrests and convictions. New York lawmakers and advocates deserve to be commended for their work on the MRTA,” said DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project. 

Several other state legislatures are seriously considering legalization this year. Most notably, a bill that would legalize cannabis in Virginia is awaiting action from Gov. Northam, and New Mexico lawmakers convened a special legislative session in order to negotiate the details of a legalization bill. Cannabis legalization bills are also being considered in Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.


Founded in 1995, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform organization. MPP has played a central role in passing dozens of cannabis policy reforms in states across the country, including 14 successful cannabis legalization campaigns, and also works to advance federal reforms.

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