By Luke Sumpter

As the home to one of the most liberal and progressive cities in the world, New York State has taken its time to ease cannabis restrictions. Although it comes trailing behind states such as Colorado and California, New York has finally taken the step to legalize the herb for recreational use.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill on the morning of March 31st, 2021, enabling adults to use cannabis recreationally and even cultivate it at home. Although cannabis instantly became legal at the stroke of a pen, sales of the herb won’t begin for another 1–2 years.

Along with this newfound freedom, the legislation will catalyse a ginormous marketplace when shops open their doors to consumers. Dispensaries are set to start raking in huge quantities of taxable income that will benefit education, community projects, and drug treatment programmes.

Cannabis has played a fundamental role in the history of New York City, in particular, influencing the legendary jazz music of the 1920s and 30s, as well as the Beat Generation that inspired American culture for decades to come.

The state legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but now activists have finally got their way. Those unjustly convicted will have their records cleared, the state economy is set to boom, and sovereign adults can enjoy the herb without the threat of prosecution.

Keep reading to discover how cannabis legalization in New York will look, and the many benefits it will bring.


The signed bill will automatically expunge the criminal records of people previously convicted for cannabis-related offences. This act of justice will change the lives of thousands, shifting their employment opportunities and changing the way the world perceives them.

For decades, citizens of New York have been fined and imprisoned for non-violent offences surrounding the herb. Cuomo stated, “For generations, too many New Yorkers have been unfairly penalized for the use and sale of adult-use cannabis, arbitrarily arrested and jailed with harsh mandatory minimum sentences”, adding, “After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State”.

The governor has also stressed the impact of these convictions on marginalised communities, and how these groups will benefit from the new legislation.


Residents Can Smoke in Peace

The legalization of cannabis in New York means residents can smoke up wherever it’s legal to smoke tobacco. As long as New Yorkers smoke in designated places, they don’t need to keep watch over their shoulder and experience the paranoia that the smell of weed smoke usually brings.

However, tobacco laws are already strict in the state. Cannabis users can’t blaze up near schools, workplaces, in cars, or along beaches and boardwalks. However, new “consumption sites” around cities will enable users to settle down in luxury lounges instead.

Relaxed Medical Cannabis

With the dawn of legal recreational weed in New York, medical patients will also see easier access to the herb. Now, a much longer list of medical conditions are deemed compatible with medical cannabis. The new agreement will also allow medical users to grow their own plants at home.

Possession and Home Cultivation

The new legislation has also massively relaxed laws surrounding possession of cannabis. When out in public, residents are permitted to possess up to 85g of cannabis at any one time, and 24g of concentrates.

Green-fingered home growers are also rejoicing over new cultivation laws. They can now keep three mature plants and three immature plants in their home, considering they are over 21 years old. However, there are limits on each household. Growers living together can only keep six mature plants and six immature plants on the property at once.

Two-Tier Licencing

Lawmakers have set out a two-tier licencing system aimed at reducing monopolies from taking hold of the market. Those entering the market as producers and processors will be prevented from owning retail shops.

Here, legislators hope to diversify the market and make it easier for women, minorities, distressed farmers, and veterans to get involved in this profitable space.

When it comes to production licences, the state government has outlined strict quality control, public health, and consumer protection processes to ensure high-quality material on the shelves.

Massive Tax Revenue

Let’s talk about the main motivator for the government to legalize weed: taxes! Cuomo himself has estimated that the new cannabis market, once fully established, will pull in around $350 million each year. On top of this, the industry will likely create between 30,000 and 60,000 new jobs in the state.

The deal states a 13% sales tax, alongside an excise tax of 3 cents per milligram of THC, which will depend on the potency of the product sold. Of course, these taxes will set the average price of cannabis quite high, but they come with their own benefits.

Aside from the expenses of overseeing the state cannabis programme, tax revenue will be split in the following manner:

40% to education
40% to community grants
20% to drug treatment and public education

Waking the Sleeping Giant

Some might ask, “Is New York really ready for legal cannabis?”, to which reality answers with a resounding “yes!”. New York City alone consumes approximately 77.44 tons of cannabis per year, making the area the largest consumer of cannabis in the world. Not only are they ready, but New York State will likely display the most successful example of how cannabis can reshape and rebuild an economy.

As New York embraces cannabis and showcases its success to the world, we’re bound to see cannabis emerge from prohibition in other major cities, states, and countries across the world.

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