Big Apple Legalizes Recreational Cannabis

On March 30, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Senate Bill 854-A, the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” making New York the 15th state to legalize recreational cannabis use.

Under the Act, New Yorkers will be allowed to possess three ounces of cannabis and are permitted to grow up to three mature plants at home with a limit of six per household. Anyone previously convicted of possessing an amount of cannabis under the new legal limit will automatically be subject to expungement and re-sentencing.

The Act also creates the Office of Cannabis Management (the “Office”), which will regulate the sale and distribution of both recreational and medical marijuana, which was first legalized in New York in 2014.  The Office will be led by a five-member board, with three members appointed by the governor and one appointed by each house of the New York State Legislature.

While sales might not start until 2022, as New York still needs to establish a regulatory framework, the Act is projected to bring in tax revenues of $350 million annually and create between 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs.

Due to the continuing federal prohibition, cannabis laws nationwide tend to diverge and differ greatly from state to state.  New York’s actions are likely to continue this trend by introducing another unique regulatory regime to the growing patchwork, as the complexity of the cannabis industry continues to develop.