New York Becomes the 15th State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

On March 30, 2021, New York lawmakers voted in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis after hours of debate in the State Senate and Assembly. Approximately 12 hours after the legislation was approved, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill that legalizes marijuana for adults and expunges the criminal records of those previously convicted by actions that would now be legal under the new law. 

With the passing of this bill, New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in the U.S. Below, we break down the details of this significant marijuana legislation. 

A Marijuana Bill To “Right The Wrongs”

Upon signing New York’s bill to legalize adult-use cannabis, Governor Cuomo stated, “This is a historic day in New York—one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s Economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits.” 

Under this new legislation, adults in the state of New York are allowed to possess three ounces of marijuana, as well as grow up to three mature marijuana plants at home, but with a maximum of six plants per household. Any New Yorker who was previously convicted of an act that would now fall under said legal limits will be subject to resentencing and automatic expungement

An Amendment to the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act

As an amended version of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, New York’s recently enacted law creates regulation and guidance for recreational marijuana sales for adults, allows for the growth of marijuana plants at home, and allows for the development of cannabis consumption lounges, as well as delivery services. 

With these new developments, the law provides the potential to create up to 60,000 jobs related to the cannabis industry and could generate over $350 million in annual tax revenue for the state of New York. Marijuana-related goods will be taxed at a rate of 13% in total; 9% allocated to the state, 3% to the municipality where the sale is made, and 1% to the county. Out of that 9% state tax, 40% will be distributed to communities deemed disproportionately affected by previous drug laws, 20% will be allocated to drug treatment and education services, and the other 40% will go to school systems. 

Additionally, this legislation creates the “Office of Cannabis Management,” which will be responsible for regulating New York’s sale and distribution of marijuana, both recreational and medical. This office will be led by a five-member board, three of whom will be appointed by the Governor and one from each house. 

Actual marijuana sales figures may not be accurately provided until 2022, as it will take nearly 18 months for New York’s newly implemented policies to completely go into effect. However, current estimates put New York’s cannabis market at about $4.6 billion in annual sales, including the illicit market. The legal market alone is anticipated to reach $1.2 billion in annual sales by late 2021

Cannabis lawyer Chelsie Spencer works vigorously in the cannabis community and is dedicated to providing legal services and support to a range of hemp, marijuana, and CBD businesses. With substantial experience in hemp and marijuana law, transactional issues, commercial and intellectual property law, and copyrights and trademarks, Chelsie offers versatile expertise in various legal fields. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or call us at 214.295.5070 for more information.