Here’s What To Expect In A Stoned New York State

Weed is legal...almost. New York Becomes 16th US State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana.
New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, Newsweek
image source: Newsweek

At long last, on March 25, 2021, New York State officially settled on a plan to legalize recreational marijuana. The empire state becomes part of the sixteen US state collective that has fully legalized the substance for both medical and recreational use, and only a short time after it had decriminalized the drug.

Here’s everything you need to know about a stoned New York state.

The Government Will Benefit Financially from the Legalization

The new industry is expected to generate $4.2 billion for the state economy and bring in $350k in tax revenue every year.

city and state, new york, recreational marijuana
image source: City & State New York

Cannabis sales will include a 9% tax across the state, but there’s a possibility of local areas increasing this percentage. New York City, for example, will charge an additional 4% local tax on top of the state-wide 9%, making the NYC marijuana tax 13% of product prices.

The legalization has the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs, contributing to the projected $4.2 billion state economic boost. With such a massive wave of new job positions, legalization also has the potential to decrease New York’s unemployment rate.

Is Legalization Equal to Decriminalization? Can I Grow and Sell Without Worry?

Like most anything, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Forbes, marijuana arrests increase
image source: Forbes

To keep things simple, no, legalization does not equal decriminalization, but it does diminish the rate at which people may be convicted with marijuana-related charges.

You can’t be arrested for possessing an ounce of weed, nor can you be charged if you’re growing a few plants. However, the bill restricts a person’s overabundance of inventory, which, if violated, could result in certain criminal charges.

For example, the bill states that a person may not possess more than 3 ounces of marijuana at a time, and can only grow a maximum of 6 plants at home. So, if you’re caught in possession of more cannabis than you’re currently allowed then you could face possible repercussions.

The same can be said for selling your inventory. Dispensaries will not be permitted to operate until 2022, so if you’re growing your own weed, you’re not allowed to sell it. Not yet. Since no form of a seller's permit is available, you’d be risking legal repercussions if you were to sell your product today.

Currently, you can only possess 3 ounces and grow 6 plants, but the maximum amount of inventory is expected to increase to upwards of 5 pounds. This limit extension will be available for medical users first, and then recreational users, but this timeline has yet to be confirmed.

What Happens to People Serving Jail Time for Marijuana Charges? Their Communities?

Marijuana-related arrests in New York have been disproportionately targeted toward black and Latino residents and neighborhoods for years, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

chicago tribune, taxes will help minority communities
High Mi Madre Cooperative calls for legalization in Albany, NY - source: Chicago Tribune

Minority demographics in NYC “[made] up 94% of marijuana-related arrests by the [NYPD] in 2020,” says CNBC’s Rich Mendez. The legalization will officially expunge these criminal records of individuals with marijuana-related crimes, meaning that we’ll see the release of inmates who are currently serving time in prison for cannabis possession.

However, don’t expect a mass wave of inmate releases as soon as the legalization takes full effect. Expungement of criminal records can be a lengthy process. Inmate records need to be reviewed before release regardless if their records consist only of marijuana convictions or not.

40% of accrued tax revenue is planned to be redistributed into minority communities across New York that have suffered from the disproportionate war on marijuana. This effort will be focused on improving community facilities and small businesses, and allowing for a greater amount of social equity applications.

When Can I Expect Marijuana Dispensaries to Open? And Where?

New Yorkers who have been making trips to Massachusetts can now look no further than their own county.

Theory Wellness, dispensaries, Massachusetts,
image source: Theory Wellness Dispensary

Marijuana distribution centers, otherwise known as dispensaries, will begin popping up in 2022 after the legalization has officially taken effect. Before dispensaries are allowed to open, and before New York officially green-lights the sale of marijuana, local areas must first vote whether or not they will participate in the legalization.

Even though New York state will officially legalize the drug, certain counties are allowed to ban dispensary pop-ups, smoking lounges, or other establishments that promote marijuana usage. Private usage and ownership cannot be banned, but counties can certainly prevent dispensaries from setting up shops on Main Street.

So, we won’t see dispensary openings until every local area in New York has voted on whether or not they’ll participate in marijuana’s legalization. This period is predicted to be no earlier than April or May of 2022.

What Are the Rules? Is it Like Alcohol, Cigarettes, or Both?

Rules are rules, so don’t expect marijuana to be much different than other popular vices.

No Smoking Sign, Australian Council on Smoking and Health
image source: Australian Council on Smoking and Health

Marijuana regulations will be a combination of current alcohol and cigarette regulations. The plant has been deemed a similar vice to its liquid neighbors, liquor and beer, so it won’t be available for purchase by individuals under the age of 21. It also can’t be consumed in public, only at home, at restaurants, bars, or other establishments with a permit to sell.

Despite being illegal to cigarette smokers under the age of 21, marijuana will be allowed to be smoked wherever cigarettes are smoked, such as defined smoking zones, lounges, or other designated establishments.

Additionally, smoking cigarettes indoors has been prohibited for many years, and this will continue with marijuana. Only lounges and private residences allow indoor smoking, so don’t expect New York to revert back to 1950’s smoking habits.

The plant will not be allowed for sale by sellers already providing alcohol to their customers. No establishment may sell both marijuana and alcohol, but this regulation has yet to be confirmed for nicotine.

Just like alcohol, it is illegal to drive a car or operate a moving vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

Enjoy Responsibly

For a state with one of the largest cities in the world, the New York legalization of marijuana comes with a large sigh of relief for many, and a gulp of responsibility for others.

We still have a lot to learn about marijuana’s effects on society, the economy, and the human body, but with patience and collaboration, we can learn together.

Marijuana is still a drug that can impair the thoughts and functions of the user, so please enjoy this legalization safely and responsibly. Thank you.

Chris is a recent Brooklyn College grad who's eager to share his thoughts on entertainment, lifestyle routines, and the state of the world.

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