Is Marijuana Legal in New York?

Cannabis has been decriminalized but is still illegal.

The Statue of Liberty with a traffic light. Source: Wikileaf

New York marijuana laws have changed a bit Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature finalized the legalization of medical marijuana in New York in 2014. The legislature also recently pushed for the legalization of recreational weed but failed to meet that goal. Although cannabis has been decriminalized, the only way to access legal weed is to participate in New York’s medical marijuana program. Here are New York’s marijuana laws.

Marijuana is Decriminalized, but Not Legal

Legislative efforts to regulate recreational cannabis in New York failed in 2019. In June, lawmakers took the less controversial route of decriminalization. The decriminalization law makes the following amendments to the New York penal code:

  • First-time offense of unlawful possession of marijuana can be punishable by a maximum fine of $150. Subsequent offenses are more expensive and can result in a maximum of 15 days of jail time by the third offense.
  • Public consumption of cannabis or possession of more than an ounce of concentrates is punishable only by a fine of no more than $200.
  • Marijuana-related convictions that would be classified as “violations” can be expunged retroactively and from now on.
  • The term “smoking” now includes cannabis smoking. This means that smoking cannabis is prohibited wherever smoking tobacco is prohibited.

In short, using, selling, and growing cannabis all remain illegal. Possession of small amounts is considered a violation and will not result in jail time unless a defendant is convicted for the third time.

The expungement provision of the law may be its most significant feature. In the language of the law, the amendment makes “New York penal law fairer and more equitable in the administration of marijuana enforcement” and avoids “the disparate racial and ethnic impact seen in current marihuana enforcement.”

However, recreational cannabis use remains illegal. The only way to legally access cannabis is to participate in New York’s medical marijuana program.

Qualifying Debilitating Medical Conditions

Patients may be eligible to participate in New York’s medical marijuana program if they have one or more of the following diagnoses:

  • Cancer
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injury with spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Pain that degrades health and functional capability as an alternative to opioid use or substance use disorder

The above diagnoses must also be accompanied by one or more of the following conditions:

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Severe or chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures
  • Severe persistent muscle spasms
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Opioid use disorder

The Commissioner of Health may add conditions to this list. Additional conditions may also be added through legislation.

Applying for A Medical Marijuana Card in New York

In order to obtain a registry identification card, patients must do the following:

  • Receive certification for medical marijuana from a registered practitioner. Patients can ask their treating practitioner if cannabis is an appropriate treatment for their condition. If their current treating practitioner is not registered with the state of New York to issue certifications for medical marijuana, the patient can either ask their practitioner to register or find a registered patient using this list.
  • Register online. Patients can follow the instructions provided by the Department of Health to submit their application online.  The law calls for a $50 registration fee, but the Department of Health is currently waiving that fee for all patients and caregivers.

Patients will be issued a temporary registry card that can be used along with a government-issued photo ID until the registry identification card is delivered by mail.

Possession and Purchasing Limits

Patients must show their registry identification card in order to make any purchases from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, the only type of legal facility selling weed in New York. Patients can find a list of registered dispensaries here.

The patient’s practitioner must outline the form of cannabis, the approved product brand, the administration method, and any other limits on the certification. The practitioner can also recommend a dosage limit, but this is not required. However, dispensaries cannot sell more than 30 days-worth of cannabis to a patient at a time. The 30 days-limit is determined by the practitioner.

Consumption

The Health Commissioner has approved the following forms of cannabis for consumption:

  • Capsules, tablets, and lozenges
  • Liquid and oil preparations for vaporizing or oral administration
  • Ground flower preparations (not for smoking)
  • Topicals
  • Transdermal patches

Under current law, smoking cannabis is not allowed. Edibles are also not permitted.

The public consumption of cannabis is prohibited. According to the law, public locations include:

  • Places of employment
  • Bars
  • Foodservice establishments
  • Enclosed indoor areas open to the public containing a swimming pool
  • Public means of transportation
  • Ticketing, boarding, and waiting areas in public transportation terminals
  • Youth centers and facilities for detention
  • Any childcare facility
  • Group homes for children
  • Public institutions for children
  • Residential treatment facilities for children
  • All public and private colleges
  • General hospitals and residential health care facilities
  • Commercial establishments
  • Indoor arenas
  • Zoos
  • Bingo facilities

Patients can consume cannabis in a private residence as long as it is approved by the property owner.

Cannabis Transport and Delivery

Delivery services are available through the registered dispensaries. Not all dispensaries may provide delivery services, so call the organization you are interested in purchasing from to find out if you can have your medical marijuana delivered to you.

Driving Under the Influence

Consuming cannabis while in a private or public motor vehicle whether driving or in a parking lot is prohibited.

Driving while under the influence of cannabis is illegal. Law enforcement officers will use observation and field tests to determine impairment. Penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are the same as they are for driving under the influence of alcohol or other scheduled drugs.

Exporting Cannabis

State and Federal law prohibit the export of cannabis across state lines. If you are leaving the state, leave your pot at home.

Personal Cultivation

Patients cannot grow their own cannabis. The only legal way to obtain cannabis is to purchase it from a licensed dispensary.

Is Marijuana Legal in New York? was last modified: by