Cannabis Law Blog

10 Things to Know about Marijuana Legalization in New York

New York State recently legalized marijuana through legislation that permits the commercial sale of “cannabis” products, expansion of medical cannabis, and the establishment of an Office of Cannabis Management that has regulatory authority over cannabis in New York.

The marijuana legalization laws also made significant changes to New York’s criminal law by providing ways for qualifying adults to lawfully possess, use, buy, sell, and even grow and store cannabis products in their own homes. Nonetheless, it is still illegal to possess, use, and sell marijuana and cannabis products in a variety of circumstances. Below are the 10 things the average person needs to know about marijuana legalization.

  1. According to the marijuana legalization law, it is now legal under New York State law for anyone 21 years old or older to buy, possess, and use marijuana or cannabis products.
  2. However, marijuana or cannabis products remain ILLEGAL under federal law. Not only are they illegal, but they are also classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA, meaning that the federal government sees marijuana or cannabis products as among the most addictive drugs in the world and that they serve no medical purpose. This also means that despite marijuana legalization, the federal government (FBI, DEA, ATF, etc.) can still investigate and prosecute anyone possessing, prescribing, selling, or growing marijuana or cannabis products, even if they are 100% compliant with New York State marijuana legalization law.
  3. In addition, despite marijuana legalization, cannabis may still remain prohibited on college campuses. For example, the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act requires all colleges that receive federal funding to have a policy in place to prohibit marijuana use on campus. This means college students may be disciplined by their college for violating this policy even if they are not committing a crime under New York State law.
  4. As part of marijuana legalization, each individual is limited to 3 ounces of marijuana or 24 grams or concentrated cannabis for personal use. If you possess more than these amounts, you may be exposed to criminal or civil penalties.
  5. An individual may transfer marijuana or cannabis products to another qualifying adult provided they are not compensated for the transfer. If you are looking to sell marijuana or cannabis products, you’ll need to get licensed and authorized to do so.
  6. Under the marijuana legalization law, individuals can lawfully possess cannabis paraphernalia.
  7. A household can grow up to 3 mature and 3 immature cannabis plants at their home provided they take reasonable steps to ensure that the plants are in a secure place and are not accessible to anyone under the age of 21.
  8. Despite the marijuana legalization law, it is a criminal violation to possess more than 3 ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis; a misdemeanor crime to possess more than 16 ounces of cannabis or 5 ounces of concentrated cannabis; an E felony to possess more than 5 pounds of cannabis or 2 pounds of concentrated cannabis; and a D felony to possess more than 10 pounds of cannabis or more than 4 pounds of concentrated cannabis. The same criminal penalties apply for the unauthorized sale of cannabis and cannabis-based products under the parameters above. There is also a C Felony to sell more than 100 pounds of cannabis or concentrated cannabis.
  9. If you had a prior qualifying conviction or criminal violation for a solely marijuana-based offense that predates the effective date of this new marijuana legalization law, then you maybe eligible to have that conviction sealed. You are eligible to seal up to two offenses, and only one of which can be a felony, so long as ten years has passed since your conviction or release from incarceration, whichever is later.
  10. It is still a crime to drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or cannabis products. The charge is driving while ability impaired by drugs under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192(4).
  11. New York State law enforcement officers can no longer, “sniff and search,” or use the smell or presence of marijuana, cannabis products, or related paraphernalia as a basis for an arrest or to conduct a more intrusive investigation or search unless it is related to an investigation of driving while ability impaired by drugs under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192(4).

While the new marijuana legalization law created ways that people can lawfully use, enjoy, and profit from marijuana or cannabis products, keep in mind the limits the law has in place as described above.

Especially keep in mind that marijuana and cannabis products significantly impact impairment and cognition. Never consume marijuana or cannabis products before or while driving, operating equipment, or caring for others because even though marijuana is legal to use in certain circumstances, if not used responsibly, it can lead to a host of greater problems.

If you have questions about how this marijuana legalization law impacts you, your business, or someone you care about, or how you can seal your marijuana-based offense(s), give us a call.


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