On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New York State.

Effective immediately, smoking recreational cannabis is now to be lawfully treated with the same approach as cigarettes. Law enforcement has been given new orders on how to respond to cannabis use and for the cannabis community. It’s a breath of fresh air. Here are the details.

Legal framework

Before Wednesday, medicinal cannabis was legalized in the state of New York. This new law will expand the state’s current program and allow for the creation of both adult-use and cannabinoid hemp programs.

It will take one to two years to implement and then retail sales will begin. Gov. Cuomo’s administration has estimated that recreational cannabis legalization could eventually increase state revenue by $300 million annually. In addition to that, the creation of these new industries has the potential to create up to 60,000 jobs state-wide. 

Smoking weed in public

New York State may not be the first to legalize recreational cannabis, but they are doing things a little bit differently. One change to the law is the new permittance of public cannabis smoking.

Basically, if you can legally smoke a cigarette, you can legally smoke a joint. Smoking is currently banned on parks and beaches and this is not going to change. But, if you are walking down Canal St. and feel the urge to burn one down, the cops will leave you alone.

As soon as the new laws came into effect, the NYPD released a four-page memo outlining their new orders in regards to responding to cannabis use.

According to the memo, “Smoking marijuana is no longer a basis for an approach, stop, summons, arrest, or search. New Yorkers smoking marijuana on sidewalks or front stoops are protected under the law.” 

Sensible changes

There have been some other immediate changes to the law and most of them surround enforcement protocols. The NYPD is being instructed to shift how they respond to hand-to-hand sales. 

  • The smell of cannabis is no longer probable cause for a vehicle search. Unless the driver is physically impaired, smell alone does not warrant a search
  • There is a 3 oz personal possession limit
  • If there is no payment or compensation, an exchange of cannabis is not considered a sale. Basically, sharing is caring but buying is trafficking
  • All criminal records for cannabis possession, including past convictions are to be immediately expunged
  • Cannabis-related offences are no longer to be considered a criminal matter

New York State was a known battleground during the war on drugs as harsh laws tore communities apart. In a statement after signing this law, Gov. Cuomo explained the reasoning behind these groundbreaking changes.

“For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targets 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. New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy.”