Marijuana is legal for adults and is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol; state also has a medical marijuana law
Last update: May 02, 2023
New York becomes 16th state to legalize cannabis!
On March 30, 2021, the New York State Legislature approved the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) in lopsided votes, 40–23 in the Senate and 94–56 in the Assembly. The next day, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the bill into law, making New York the 16th state to end cannabis prohibition. The MRTA 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 law is available here.
New York was the third state to legalize cannabis through its state legislature, following Illinois and Vermont.
Since the MRTA went into effect, adults over 21 have been allowed to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrate. The MRTA also established the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) which oversees the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). The OCM is charged with implementing a comprehensive regulatory framework that covers medical, adult-use, and cannabinoid hemp. On September 2, 2021, Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed Christopher Alexander as executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management and former Assemblymember Tremaine Wright as chair of the Cannabis Control Board.
On January 24, 2022, the OCM expanded the medical cannabis program to allow doctors the ability to recommend cannabis for any condition. Prior to the expansion, doctors were only allowed to certify patients with a limited number of conditions permitted by statute.
On October 5, 2022, medical cannabis patients aged 21 and over were given home-grow rights. Under rules adopted by the Cannabis Control Board, adults 21 and over are allowed to grow a maximum of three mature plants and three immature plants. Designated caregivers who care for those under the age 21 or those unable to cultivate are also permitted to grow their own cannabis. Caregivers are permitted to grow for up to four patients. Under MRTA, all adults 21 and older will be allowed to cultivate limited amounts of cannabis by mid-2024 — within 18 months after the first adult-use sales.
On December 29, 2022, New York launched cannabis sales to adults over the age of 21. Under New York's legalization law, consumers are allowed to purchase up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate.
Cannabis Licensing Slow to Move Forward
As of March 2023, only four adult-use retailers are selling cannabis in the state.
New York lawmakers aspired to create an equitable market that placed those most harmed by cannabis prohibition at the heart of the adult-use cannabis industry. Unfortunately, those goals have yet to be realized. Adult use licensing has been beset by several setbacks from litigation, to lack of capital, and delays from the OCM.
The MRTA set a goal of 50% of adult use licenses going to social and economic equity applicants. In the law, social equity applicants are defined as people from “communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” as well as minority- and women-owned businesses, disabled veterans, and financially distressed farmers. The OCM recently announced they were doubling the amount of conditional retail licenses with the hope that more come online in 2023.
Gov. Hochul signs bill to speed up adult-use cannabis cultivation
On February 22, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed S. 08084 into law. The legislation cleared the way for existing New York hemp farmers to apply for conditional licenses to grow cannabis in the 2022 growing season.
Under the law, hemp farmers that were licensed with the Department of Agriculture as of December 31, 2021 are allowed to cultivate up to 43,500 square feet outdoors, 25,000 square feet in greenhouse facilities, or no more than 30,000 square feet comprising a combination of the outdoor and greenhouse space. The hemp businesses are required to meet environmental sustainability, labor peace, and equity benchmarks to be allowed to cultivate and minimally process cannabis until June 2023. Hemp businesses issued provisional licenses are required to begin operations within six months of the license being issued. After June 2023, the hemp businesses are required to apply for a cultivator or processor license.
MPP has played a leading role in enacting 10 of the 18 state legalization laws, along with numerous decriminalization and medical cannabis laws. In 2021, a record number of states legalized legislatively, and we laid groundwork for future victories in other states. This year, the movement achieved victories in ...