If you are a resident of the State of New York, you’ve probably caught a distinct whiff now and then, and you could swear it was weed. That may have raised some eyebrows ten years ago but not today.
A lot has happened, and cannabis is fully legal in New York, with a thriving multi-billion dollar industry.
However, cannabis has come a long way, and it wasn’t always a popular topic. If you are unfamiliar with the history of cannabis in New York, this post will break it down for you.
Marijuana didn’t have much limelight in the years leading up to 1932, when it was included in the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act. Still, the drug was heavily restricted from as early as 1914.
In 1915, the drug was added to a list of prohibited drugs by the New York City Sanitary Laws.
Cannabis remained restricted in the following decades, with violations resulting in fines and prison terms.
Marijuana was slightly decriminalized in 1977, with possessions of 25 grams or less treated as infractions or misdemeanors.
It wasn’t until 2014 that state lawmakers further decriminalized marijuana possessions, doing away with low-level convictions.
Decriminalization prescribed that possessions of up to 2 ounces should be treated as a violation rather than a crime, which attracted fines as low as $50.
Legalization of Medical Marijuana
Cannabis became legal for medicinal purposes when then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation passed by the Senate.
The legalization led to the formation of a medical cannabis program to regulate use.
Under the new law, marijuana can only be accessible to a patient after evaluation and certification by a state–registered healthcare practitioner.
Medical cannabis patients under the program can access marijuana prescriptions from various state-certified marijuana dispensaries across the state.
Additionally, registered patients may grow up to 6 marijuana plants at home.
Adult-Use Marijuana Laws Before 2021
After decriminalization efforts in 2014, the law was less strict. Still, penalties varied depending on the nature of the offense. Here is a highlight of marijuana laws before legalization in 2021, which affected many of the possession offenses:
- Possession of marijuana in any form was illegal and punishable by law. If you are arrested with less than 25 grams, you face a maximum fine of $100, that is if you’ve not been convicted of the same offense within three years.
- A second or third conviction within a three-year timeframe attracted a fine of up to $250 and a possible jail term.
- Burning marijuana in public was considered a fifth-degree criminal possession. The same goes for possessing more than 25 grams and less than 57, both of which attracted a three-month jail term.
- Possessions ranging from 57 to 227 grams were fourth-degree criminal possessions attracting a six-month jail term.
- Amounts higher than 230 grams to 10 pounds were felonies of varying classes, with a minimum of three years and 15 years in prison.
- The laws regarding the unlawful sale of marijuana from 2016 were even stricter than possession offenses.
Legalization of Adult-Use Marijuana
After years of failed attempts, New York State lawmakers approved a bill in March 2021, legalizing recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and over.
The new law allowed possession of up to three ounces of marijuana for recreational purposes. When it comes to concentrated cannabis products like oils, the law allows up to 24 grams.
Regarding cannabis use at a personal residence, you are permitted to keep up to five pounds of weed at a time, provided your stash is secure. There are also no restrictions on sharing weed with interested adults.
Since the legalization of adult-use marijuana, the state has approved dozens of retail licenses for recreational dispensaries.
While you can legally buy marijuana, you can’t possess more than the maximum amount permitted. Violations are subject to prosecution.
The law also expunged records of people with marijuana-related convictions, provided the activities they were convicted for are no longer criminalized.
When exploring the history of cannabis in New York, you can tell that public sentiments underwent changes over a long time.
Through research and decriminalization efforts, the state made strides toward a future where marijuana was legal and regulated.
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