New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana Use

Ralph Ellis

April 01, 2021

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed a bill that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 years and up.

The bill, approved Tuesday night by the state Legislature, immediately allows people to legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana or 24 ounces of concentrated forms of the drug, such as oils.

The bill creates new government oversight organizations for the recreational marijuana industry, which is expected to generate up to $350 million yearly in tax revenues, billions of dollars in sales, and thousands of new jobs, The New York Times reported.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act puts in place a 9% sales tax on cannabis, plus an additional 4% tax that counties and municipalities would split, Politico reported. There's another tax based on THC content, Politico said.

The law will automatically expunge the criminal records for people who'd previously been convicted of possessing amounts of marijuana that would no longer be considered illegal. It will also establish new penalties for possessing and selling the drug outside the legal limits and incorporate marijuana impairment into driving while intoxicated laws, Politico reported.

New Yorkers will be able to receive home deliveries of marijuana and to grow up to six plants at home for personal use. 

"For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences and after years of hard work, this landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public," Cuomo said in a statement.

Politico said money raised by the tax would be invested in minority communities disproportionately affected by the state's drug laws and used for drug treatment, prevention, and education.

Critics say the law will harm public health and safety, especially on the highways.

 "Even if you believe in the rights of adults to smoke a joint, this is a very bad bill," Kevin Sabet, PhD, founder of SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement posted to Twitter. "This bill will exacerbate our state's drug crisis."

Sabet said the bill will end up exposing more children to second- and third-hand smoke and expose them to high levels of THC that are damaging to their brains. 

"I think this bill is going to end up costing us more than it benefits us," New York State Assembly Member Robert Smullen said, according to Politico.

New York is now the 15th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and cannabis.


Twitter: @NYGovCuomo, March 31, 2021; @learnaboutsam, March 30, 2021.

The New York Times: "New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana."

Politico: "New York Legislature votes to legalize adult-use, recreational cannabis."

New York Governor's Office: "Statement From Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on New York State Legislature Passing Legislation to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis."