New York Legalizes Recreational Cannabis: Economics, allowances, and legal implications

New York Legalizes Recreational Cannabis: Economics, allowances, and legal implications

New York has now become the 15th state to legalize recreational cannabis use. On March 31st New York Governor Andrew W. Cuomo signed legislation rendering recreational marijuana use and possession legal for all individuals over the age of 21. This move has the potential to create massive positive effects for the American cannabis industry, marijuana aficionados, and individuals negatively affected by the criminalization of the plant alike. 

After years of failed efforts and thwarted attempts, Governor Cuomo has finally succeeded in legalizing cannabis in the state of New York. Perhaps one of the most notable effects of this event is the impact it is likely to have on the economy. This move is projected to bring in 350 million dollars in tax revenue annually. In addition to this, this legislation has the potential to create anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 jobs. Lawmakers are also in the process of discussing stringent quality control regulations to ensure that consumers feel confident in the quality of products they purchase from licensed cannabis vendors. As a result of this, consumers will hopefully be more likely to contribute to the legal marijuana industry, increasing state tax revenue from these businesses in the process. This legislation means good things for marginalized marginalized New Yorkers who hope to take part in the industry, as it states that a goal of 50% of licenses for production and distribution will be given to service-disabled veterans, distressed farmers, and small businesses owned by minorities or women. While the most obvious effects of these changes are centered around the economy of New York, the legalization of weed in this state is likely to positively impact the national industry, as legalized cannabis implies potential sales for American glass distributors as a result of the projected increase in sales for ancillary products. 

Upon the legislation being passed, New York residents were granted the ability to possess 3 ounces of marijuana flower or 24 grams of concentrate outside of their homes. Additionally, individuals are now permitted to have up to five pounds of flower at home, provided that they keep it in a safe place where children and pets cannot access it. The changes also allow individuals to grow 3 mature and three immature plants in their homes, with a limit of 6 mature and 6 immature plants per household. However, this will only be allowed 18 months after the first legal dispensary is opened, which is unlikely to happen before 2022. While growing weed for personal consumption will be allowed, the prohibition against selling cannabis without a license will continue. In contrast to states like Illinois, stoners across New York are allowed to smoke a bowl (or consume cannabis in other preferred forms) in any public place where smoking tobacco would be allowed with the sole exception being that smoking weed is not permitted inside vehicles. Medical marijuana regulation is also becoming less restrictive under this legislation, as individuals with a wider range of conditions are now considered eligible. Medical marijuana patients are also allowed to hold a 60 day supply of the plant, double the supply that was previously allowed. 

Another aspect of this legislature that lawmakers have emphasized in their cannabis legalization efforts is the repair of social disparities caused by the American war on drugs. In 2020, 94% of arrests related to marijuana possession and sale were directed at people of color. These figures are in stark contrast to the statistics related to cannabis use in New York. A survey conducted by the New York health department found that 24% of white individuals reported marijuana use, while only 14% and 12% of black and Latino individuals respectively reported consuming the plant. In discussion of the recently passed legislature, Senator Liz Krueger stated “I saw such injustice going on, and for young people whose lives were being destroyed  for doing something I did when I was a kid. Nobody put a gun to my head and nobody tried to put me in jail, because I was this nice white girl.” As a result of the legislation, all individuals who have faced criminal charges due to cannabis-related infractions that are now legal will have these charges expunged from their records. In light of Sen. Kreuger’s comments, the fact that licenses will be largely distributed to underprivileged individuals, and the expungement of many cannabis-related criminal charges, it is clear that a driving factor behind current legislature is mitigating the social tragedies brought on by the criminalization of cannabis. 

While many are elated by the news of these changes, others find them offensive. Among these individuals is the New York State PTA Executive Director, who is quoted as saying “Absolute travesty. All research submitted shows it will be harmful to children, makes the road less safe.” As a result of uproar among certain groups regarding legalization, localities will have nine months to pass laws banning dispensaries and consumption licenses. However, the state will be issuing licenses to marijuana delivery services that would enable individuals to order cannabis products and have them delivered to their homes. Localities will not be permitted to ban these services. Additionally, no municipality will be able to prohibit state-legal weed consumption, regardless of whether it has elected to disallow dispensaries and consumption licenses for businesses. State officials will also be launching an education and prevention campaign to reduce cannabis use among school-age children, and schools will be eligible for programs aimed at drug awareness and prevention. In response to concerns regarding whether adult-use cannabis will impact the safety of New York roads, the state will be funding a study to analyze the effects of marijuana use on driving. 

New York’s recent legalization of adult-use cannabis has the potential to benefit several corporate and governmental entities in addition to being beneficial to a variety of individuals. These changes allow for growth of the American economy in New York and beyond, enable more flexibility in the treatment of medical marijuana patients in addition to benefiting many recreational stoners, and aid in reversing the social consequences of laws that have been enforced on a racially biased basis. State lawmakers have also demonstrated their commitment to making these changes safely through such measures as quality control for legal cannabis products, education for young individuals to reduce the risk of underage consumption, and studying the effects of cannabis use while driving. 

New York Times article focused mainly on what new laws allow and prohibit:

Account of legislation from Governor Andrew W. Cuomo’s webpage:

NBC Chicago article covering included commentary from Krueger and Belokopitsky and discussing economic and legal specifics: