New York Cannabis Laws
Is Cannabis Legal In New York?
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Is recreational cannabis legal in New York?
No. Recreational adult-use is currently illegal in New York, but the state has expanded decriminalization efforts.
New York first partially decriminalized cannabis in 1977, penalizing the possession of 25 grams or less with a small fine. However, many felt during Guiliani’s “stop and frisk” era; this law has been used as a loophole to unfairly arrest certain marginalized groups. According to a New York Times editorial, between mid-1990-2010 more than half a million people were arrested for low-level, public-view possession.
New York’s cannabis decriminalization further expanded with the passing of legislation in 2019. It is currently a non-criminal violation to possess up to 2 oz of cannabis at a time, and the maximum penalty is a $200 fine. Smoking cannabis in public is seen as a public health violation and can warrant a ticket, but it is still illegal to sell, trade, transport, or grow any cannabis products. As a part of the same legislation, the state expunged evidence from past convictions of small amount possession.
Is Medical Marijuana legal in New York?
Yes. New York made medical marijuana legal with the signing of the Compassionate Care Act (Assembly Bill 6357) in 2014. Under this law, registered patients with certain qualifying conditions may use non-smokable medical marijuana products. Those conditions include cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, MS, and many other severe and terminal illnesses. As of 2020, more than 100k medical marijuana patients in this state receive their products via the 40 dispensaries operating throughout New York.
Are CBD products legal in New York?
Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC.
Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.
Is cannabis delivery legal in New York?
Delivery is legal only for medical marijuana.
Delivery services are still subject to local limits based on time, place, and delivery (operating hours and delivery locations).
New York’s Cannabis Timeline:
1927: New York Prohibits all forms of cannabis
1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.
1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession.
1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.
Classification of Controlled Substances:
Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use
Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use
Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
1973: New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws
1977: New York’s Partial decriminalization
1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws designed, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the death penalty’s promotion to be used against “drug kingpins.”
1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.
1997-2010: During the “stop and frisk era,” more than half a million people were arrested for low-level, public-view possession.
2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.
2014: New York legalizes Medical Marijuana with the Compassionate Care Act (Assembly Bill 6357).
2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.
2018: After Governor Cuomo urged the New York legislature to legalize cannabis, the Department of Health completed a study resulting in their recreational legalization recommendation.
2019: New York enacted legislation expanding the decriminalization of recreational use of cannabis.
2020: New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation bill is awaiting legislation.
2021: Governor Cuomo announces adult-use proposal.