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Most Important Things You Need To Know About New York Cannabis Laws

Navigate New York cannabis laws with our guide, highlighting the latest on dispensaries, earnings, and recent enforcement actions.

Welcome to the bustling world of New York cannabis. While weed has been legal in New York since 2021, the journey of regulation, licensing, and taxation has been uniquely New York. As the city still grapples with ironing out the intricate details, let’s dive deep into understanding the current situation.

Is Cannabis Legal in New York?

A bag of cannabis as a product

Indeed, the answer is a resounding yes, but not without a few asterisks. In 2021, the Albany lawmakers passed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). It allowed New Yorkers aged 21 and above to possess, transport, and consume up to three ounces of marijuana and 24 grams of concentrated cannabis. However, public places like parks, restaurants, and subways are no-go zones for smoking.

The MRTA was a game-changer, not just because it decriminalized possession. It laid the foundation for cannabis rules, most notably setting up the Cannabis Control Board and the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). The latter now becomes central to all cannabis-related decisions in the state.

Navigating the Pot Shops

If you’ve stepped out in the city, you’ve seen them. From THC-laden products in local bodegas to weed sellers in busy areas, and even the brand-new head shops occupying vacant retail spaces. This explosion happened because while cannabis possession became decriminalized, legal pot shops took their time opening.

Checking for the authenticity of these stores is vital. The state-licensed cannabis dispensaries will have a “Dispensary Verification Tool” sticker, a blue and white sign with a QR code. Scanning this QR code takes you to the OCM’s list of licensed dispensaries, ensuring you’re in a legitimate space.

As the cannabis scene in New York evolves, there are significant efforts to regulate and oversee the market. The first two weeks of intensified enforcement against illicit marijuana operations resulted in 33 inspections and the discovery of multiple violations, which led to the confiscation of 1,000 pounds of unauthorized cannabis products.

This enforcement surge, spearheaded by New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) in tandem with the Department of Taxation and Finance, was a direct consequence of a recent law passed by the governor. The aim of this legislation is to curb the sprawling number of unlicensed stores, vehicles, and bodegas selling illegal marijuana items.

One of the significant provisions of this law is that the OCM has the authority to impose civil fines on illegal cannabis ventures. The penalties are substantial, commencing at $10,000 per day and can escalate to a staggering $20,000 per day for the most severe breaches. Thus, consumers should be diligent and ensure that they are purchasing from licensed vendors to avoid supporting unauthorized operations.

The Slow Bloom of Legal Dispensaries

So, why the delay in legal dispensaries opening up? New York’s approach is refreshingly different. The state decided that the first licenses would go to those affected by cannabis-related convictions. In other states, the process favored larger corporations or former medical cannabis entities.

This noble intention, unfortunately, came with challenges. Funding issues, lawsuits halting store openings in areas like Brooklyn, and difficulties in real estate procurement slowed down the process. However, with the OCM now allowing licensees to open their dispensaries and even do delivery, the scenario looks promising.

Did You Know?
In the already booming cannabis business in New York, here are the earnings of some of the state’s dispensaries:

Source: DNB

Delivery and Taxation

Yes, New Yorkers can now get legal weed delivered, given they are above 21. But it’s still in its early phase, with only five of the nine legal dispensaries in New York City offering this service.

Buying legal cannabis isn’t just about the product price. The state slaps a hefty 13% tax on the purchase, which doesn’t include the tax distributors have to bear. The tax varies based on product and potency, making cannabis-infused drinks and food less taxed than vape oils and resins.

The Social Equity Aspect of Legalization

One of the unique aspects of New York’s cannabis legalization was its focus on individuals affected by its past criminalization. The state’s plan, as part of MRTA, is to allocate half of all licenses to social and economic equity applicants, particularly from communities adversely affected by the prohibition.

While the intent is heartwarming, the actual distribution of revenue, regulations, and the flow of funds are yet to be streamlined. The state’s priority should be to get more licensed operators functional to ensure healthy competition and avoid a monopoly by the gray market.

Potency and Home Growth

For those who prefer the natural route, New York cannabis laws do allow individuals above 21 to grow their cannabis, but only if they’re state-approved medical patients. These individuals can grow and have six plants at their homes. For the rest, while the 2021 law permits home growth, the rules haven’t been established by the OCM yet, keeping it in the gray zone.

When it comes to potency, legal cannabis has a range, and the strength should be transparently labeled. However, an investigation by NY Cannabis Insider revealed some discrepancies in high-potency strains sold by licensed growers. This situation led to state regulations around testing, further discussions among lawmakers, and changes in the state’s potency tax.

On-site Consumption and Medical Dispensaries

A burning question in many minds is the potential rise of cannabis bars, akin to alcohol-serving joints. While they’re in the future, their reality might be further down the line. The state hasn’t yet formulated rules for on-site consumption licenses.

Medical dispensaries, on the other hand, continue to thrive. Joining the medical cannabis program is now more streamlined, and a variety of medical conditions, ranging from PTSD to autism, can be eligible. And the best part? Medical cannabis isn’t subject to sales tax.

New York cannabis in 2023 is an exciting, evolving world. From understanding the New York Office of Cannabis Management regulations to getting a grasp on how to get a cannabis license in New York, the journey has been nothing short of thrilling. As the Empire State continues