Is Weed Legal in New York?
Medical marijuana has been legal in New York since the Compassionate Care Act was signed in 2014. Possession of amounts up to 2 ounces was decriminalized in 2019, becoming a violation instead of a crime. Adult-use is still illegal, as are personal cultivation, smoking marijuana in public or the sale or gifting of any amount. Concentrates, which are defined as the separated resin of cannabis, or any mixture or preparation containing at least 2.5% THC, are not allowed. Possession of any amount of cannabis concentrates up to one-fourth of an ounce, or 7 grams, is a misdemeanor, and fines and prison time escalate with larger amounts.
New York seemed poised to become the first state to create a legal, regulated marijuana market through the legislative process in 2019. After debating the legalization of all marijuana, the New York State Legislature was unable to come to a consensus, with divisions mostly over social equity provisions. However, lawmakers did expand a 1977 law that decriminalized cannabis when they passed SB S6779. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the decriminalization bill into law on July 29, 2019 and it went into effect a month later.
The new regulations also expunged or vacated records of previous minor marijuana offenses and modified the definition of smoking. In part because of studies showing marijuana laws disproportionately affect people and communities of color, the legislation was aimed to lessen “the disparate racial and ethnic impact that existing law has had by more fairly decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana,” according to the legislation.
Under the new provisions, possession of up to 2 ounces, or 57 grams, is a violation, subject to a fine of $50 for amounts less than 1 ounce, and $100 for quantities between 1 and 2 ounces. Previously fines were imposed for 23 grams or less. Fines do not escalate, nor are misdemeanors charged because of previous offenses as they had been in the old law. The law does not change penalties for possession of larger amounts of marijuana, nor does it decriminalize marijuana dealing, sales, or trafficking.
Smoking of marijuana is added to the definition of smoking in the Public Health Law, meaning it is not allowed anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited.
Medical marijuana was legalized in 2014, when the possession, use, manufacture, delivery, transport, or administration of medical marijuana by a designated caregiver for qualifying conditions was legalized under New York’s Compassionate Care Act, or S7923.
In 2018, the New York State Department of Health released a Regulated Marijuana Report that found, “Regulation of marijuana benefits public health by enabling government oversight and consumer protection.”
In November 2018, a two-year report outlined program highlights and changes since regulations were enacted.
New York first began limiting legal use of cannabis in 1914, when it restricted it to medical use, then in 1927 banned it completely.
The Medical Marijuana Program (MMP), under the auspices of the Department of Health oversees medical cannabis registry, certification, purchase, and dispensing for patients and caregivers. The MMP also manages the certification and registry, and regulation of practitioners and dispensing facilities.
Certified patients can purchase medical cannabis from 10 state-regulated organizations operating 35 dispensaries throughout the state as of June 2019. Patients must bring their registry ID cards and certifications. Designated caregivers obtaining medical marijuana on behalf of patients need their caregiver registry identification cards and their patients’ certifications. Some registered organizations also offer online ordering. The Department of Health limits medical marijuana to non-smokable forms, including capsules, liquids, spray, oils, and vaporizer products. Edibles are prohibited under current law although food growers and processors can produce beverages and food infused with cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabis compound.
Patients are allowed to purchase up to a 30-day supply of prescribed cannabis, depending on limitations set by their medical practitioner. Purchases are reported to the New York State Prescription Monitoring Program database.
Dispensaries accept only cash payments. Although dispensaries set prices that vary, the Department of Health reviews dispensary reports and sets a maximum price-per-milligram dose based on the dispensaries’ submission of its costs to manufacture, market, and distribute products.
Registered patients may hold up to a 30-day supply of an approved medical cannabis product at any time. Patients and designated caregivers must have their medical marijuana registry ID card on hand at all times when possessing medical cannabis. Home cultivation is illegal.
It is also illegal to vaporize or smoke approved medical cannabis products in places where tobacco smoking is also prohibited. It is also illegal to vaporize a medical marijuana product within 100 feet, or 30 ½ meters, of public or private school grounds, unless on private property. Consuming medical cannabis is illegal in motor vehicles on public and private roads, or parked in any lot.
Medical marijuana products may not be transported outside of New York state.
Medical Marijuana Registry Program
The MMP is the portal through which New York patients register for identification cards and are granted access to cannabis from approved dispensaries.
To register, patients must first contact a practitioner registered with the Department of Health and be certified with a qualifying condition. More than 1,700 practitioners are registered with the state. Patients must be New York residents or temporarily residing in the state for medical treatment.
Once certified, patients create an account online. Once approved, they receive a temporary registry identification card, which may be used in conjunction with a government-issued photo ID to purchase approved medical marijuana products until the permanent registry ID card arrives. Registrations expire when the certification issued by the practitioner expires based on the prescription. Patients and caregivers must re-register each time a new certification number is issued.
The state charges a $50 applications fee for patients and caregivers, but the fee may be waived or reduced for financial hardship.
The state has loosened requirements for qualified practitioners. The list of health professionals who can certify patients was expanded to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Practitioners are required to complete a Department of Health-approved education course and create an account and register with the Health Commerce System.
Rules for Caregivers
A certified patient may designate up to two caregivers during the registration process. Since December 2017, patients have been allowed to designate certain facilities as caregivers, although facility participation is optional.
After being designated by a patient, caregivers are required to go through the same application process as patients and must also carry required identification. Once approved, the caregiver can assist up to five patients in obtaining, possessing, and administering medical marijuana. Caregivers will legally be allowed to possess up to a 30-day supply of marijuana on behalf of the designated patients. Marijuana must be in the proper consumption forms and dosages specified for the specified patients.
The MMP reserves medical cannabis certification for patients diagnosed with one of the following severe, debilitating, or life-threatening conditions:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Chronic pain that meets legal definitions, such as pain that lasts three months or more
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Opioid use or substance use disorder
- Parkinson’s disease
- Pain that degrades health and functional capability
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Spinal cord injury with spasticity
- A severe, debilitating, or life-threatening condition accompanied by one or more of the following associated or complicating conditions:
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Opioid use disorder
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
Additional qualifying conditions may be added by the Commissioner of Health, or added by the Legislature.
New York does not offer reciprocity. Certifications or registry ID cards from other states are not accepted.
All medical cannabis products must be tested by an independent laboratory certified by the Department of Health’s Environmental Laboratory Approval Program. Products are tested for their cannabinoid profile, as well as the following microbiological, metal, and chemical contaminants:
- Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria
- Escherichia coli (e. coli)
- Growth regulators used during production
- Mucor species
- Penicillium species
- Pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides used during production
- Pseudomonas, for products to be vaporized
- Thermophilic Actinomycetes species
- Any other substance as required by the Commissioner of Health
This page was last updated on September 4, 2019.