Marijuana has been a long-standing subject of controversy in the U.S for decades. Even though 47 states have legalized cannabis for some forms of medical use, New York significantly falls behind its neighbors in terms of marijuana legislation. This guide will uncover key facts about recreational and medical marijuana use and the history of its laws in the state of New York.
History of Marijuana Legislation in New York
The first mentions of marijuana in the state date back to the 1850s when the New York Daily News published a letter labeling cannabis as “East-Indian hemp” that could be used as an effective antidote for the poison of rabies. Almost 50 years later, The New York Times described marijuana as a harmless-looking drug. Medical use of “weed” was allowed in the state at that time, but everything changed in 1914 when cannabis was added to the list of restricted drugs as a result of adopting the Boylan Bill – a legal act designed to deal with rampant drug addiction problems in New York. In 1927, marijuana was restricted completely.
Over the next 50 years, several studies surrounding marijuana use and its effects were conducted as the state introduced new laws. Marijuana remained illegal, however, until 1977, when the possession of 25 grams or less of cannabis was decriminalized. It was expected to have a positive impact on the number of arrests related to weed possession, but instead, arrests continued to climb. According to a report from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services in 2017, more than 800,000 were arrested on marijuana possession charges over the past 20 years.
Marijuana legislation main driving forces
The first person to investigate the purported effects of cannabis consumption was Fiorello H. La Guardia – the mayor of NYC from 1934 to 1945. In 1944, the La Guardia Committee report studying the issue of cannabis consumption in New York was released. The committee members concluded that any statements describing marijuana as a dangerous gateway drug that can cause addiction, insanity, and harm to physical and mental health were false. Essentially, the report pointed out that no significant research on the effects of marijuana had been conducted before, and the cannabis ban in the city existed without any scientific evidence to back it up.
Modern-day marijuana legislation is widely supported by Bill de Blasio, the current NYC mayor and former 2020 presidential candidate. His first foray into marijuana policy took place in 2014 when he instructed the NYPD to issue tickets to (instead of arresting) people caught with possession of less than 25 grams of cannabis (this following police contravention of the 1977 law). A temporary decrease in arrests followed his order but ultimately did not achieve the desired outcome of addressing racial disparities in enforcement of marijuana offenses. Bill de Blasio has continued to publicly confirm his support for marijuana legislation made “the right way,” however.
Last but not least, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has shown great support for marijuana legislation over the past several years since reversing his long-time opposition to legalization. In 2014, Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act, which allowed for the use of marijuana in the state of New York for medical purposes. The governor also launched an initiative to analyze how marijuana legalization for recreational use would affect the state in general. The Department of Health conducted a formal study on this topic in 2018. The researchers found overwhelming benefits for the economy, public health and safety, and thusly recommended the development of a comprehensive regulatory framework for marijuana use in the city.
Current situation and fight for recreational use
In 2018, the New York legal cannabis market reached $1.8 billion in revenue. Researchers predict that the market will be valued at $7 billion by the year 2025. And according to a Nielsen analytical report, the US market of legal marijuana will reach $41 billion in revenue by 2025, meaning that New York will make up close to 17% of the market share. The prognosis is quite positive, taking into consideration that New York still has not legalized recreational marijuana.
Politicians are still concentrating their efforts on updating cannabis laws. Even though the intent of Bill de Blasio to have fewer cannabis-related arrests wasn’t immediately effective, the current situation seems to have improved significantly. According to the NYPD, they arrested over 1,300 people for weed possession in 2019, which is three times less than the number of arrests in 2018 and almost 14 times less than in 2017. In only two years, the number of arrests decreased by over 70%.
As for official NY marijuana legislation to legalize weed for recreational purposes, a bill known as the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was put forth shortly after Andrew Cuomo initiated his study. The proposed law had enough opposition in the government in 2019, however, that it was pushed back to the legislative session of 2020. What did pass in 2019 was a handful of marijuana decriminalization measures. Possession of fewer than 2 ounces, or approximately 56 grams, of marijuana, is only considered a violation (does not show up on criminal record) and penalized with up to a $200 fine. Additionally, the state expunged some criminal records when lawmakers decided to annul certain past charges for marijuana possession of 25 grams or less.
Another step that has already been taken by the government is the prohibition of pre-employment drug testing in New York City. The NYC Council passed a bill that prevents local enterprises from forcing new applicants to take drug-screening tests.
Essential Requirements for Marijuana Consumption in New York
Since marijuana is not fully legalized but can be lawfully used for medical purposes, the state issued specific requirements that allow citizens to become legal cannabis consumers. A medical card issued by the state provides patients with the right to purchase and consume marijuana. In order to qualify for this card, an applicant must comply with the requirements described below.
Only adults 18 years and older who are eligible for using medical cannabis can buy and consume marijuana products in New York. However, the age limit for medical marijuana card qualification can vary. Patients under 18 years old who have a medical condition that qualifies them for cannabis use can still obtain a medical card, but only under the responsibility of a legal guardian who is at least 21 years old.
Even though marijuana is illegal in the US at the federal level, many states have legalized it for medical use. The New York State Medical Marijuana Program defines a list of medical conditions and diseases that qualify patients to use medical cannabis. As of January 2020, the list includes several debilitating diseases and life-threatening conditions, as well as other conditions that cause severe suffering, such as cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, etc. Patients suffering from chronic pain which deteriorates their health can also qualify for the marijuana card with a written order from their medical doctor. The full list of medical marijuana requirements can be found here.
How to apply for a medical card?
If you want to qualify for medical cannabis consumption, talk with your treating practitioner about whether medical marijuana could aid your condition. However, your physician may not yet be registered with the New York State Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program, so you may need to see a NY medical marijuana doctor instead by making an appointment in a clinic or scheduling an online consultation. This type of specialist will help you verify whether you have any of the recognized conditions that qualify you for the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Don’t forget to get your personal papers and medical records together too. You will need to provide the following documents in order to get a medical cannabis card in NY:
- a signed statement from a licensed doctor confirming your medical condition;
- proof of New York State residency (passport, driving license, ID, etc.);
- patient application.
You can apply for a card online at MDBerry, and our doctors will schedule an online appointment with you right away. The evaluation process itself usually doesn’t take much time. You will get the answer whether you pass the evaluation or not at the end of the appointment.
If your condition qualifies for the use of medical marijuana, you will get an online version of the official certificate. The physical certificate will arrive by mail 5-7 days after the appointment. A medical card allows its holders to buy, possess, and consume cannabis products. In the event you’re not approved for certification, the appointment fee will be returned. Learn more about the medical marijuana certification at MDBerry here.
Marijuana can be consumed in different ways, and the US market has a great variety of cannabis products. Smokable marijuana is the most popular product alongside pipes, bongs (water pipes), and rolling papers for its consumption. Another popular type of product is edibles – various foods or drinks containing cannabis. As of January 2020, only non-smokable and non-edible marijuana products are allowed in New York. Local dispensaries are mainly focused on selling tinctures, oils, vapes, and pills.
These are cannabis-based extracts mixed with alcohol, and they are very popular among marijuana users. Tinctures can be consumed as-is or mixed with any type of food or drink of your choosing. If you want to make your extracts last longer, store them in a cool dark place.
- Vape cartridges
Since smoking marijuana is prohibited in NY state, medical patients find vaping to be a reasonable alternative for cannabis consumption. Many dispensaries currently offer CBD-based cartridges that can be used for vaping. In September 2019, Governor Cuomo banned flavored electronic cigarettes after a spate of vaping-related illnesses, many of which were linked to black market THC vape cartridges. Researchers found the ultimate culprit to be vitamin E acetate, an additive found in vape cartridges sold mostly in illicit markets. Legal cannabis consumers can rest easy knowing that medical marijuana dispensaries are far less likely to include vitamin E acetate in their products, and many states have pre-emptively banned the additive in their medical dispensaries.
Capsules are commonly considered the best option to consume the same dosage of medical weed every time you take it. The amount of marijuana is pre-measured which eliminates any miscalculations.
Keep in mind that smoking marijuana, as well as selling, buying, and consuming cannabis-based edibles, is illegal in the state. Please also note that only the residents of New York or patients receiving care or treatment in the state can obtain medical weed in New York. State law prohibits public consumption of medical marijuana products; they are only allowed to be used in private residences.
How to Travel With Medical Cannabis to New York
Cannabis laws vary greatly by state. If you are a full-time medical marijuana user and are planning to visit the state of New York, there are certain laws and rules you have to follow in order not to get in trouble for your cannabis consumption.
Are there any limits for traveling with marijuana and CBD products?
Travelling with marijuana and CBD-based products is complicated. As we’ve already mentioned, marijuana has not yet been legalized by the US federal government. This means that medical cannabis users can face charges and penalties for the possession of weed and weed-based products when traveling across the country.
Can I get medical marijuana in New York if I am a resident of a different state?
The NY state government doesn’t allow patients from a different state to buy and consume marijuana while visiting. Even if you have an official medical card issued by one of the states that have legalized marijuana, you can’t buy, possess, or use marijuana products within the New York state borders.
Can I travel with medical cannabis products outside of New York State?
New York doesn’t allow bringing CBD products outside of its borders. However, if you are a medical marijuana patient and own a marijuana card, there are several states that have adopted reciprocity laws. It means that you can use your card issued in NY to buy cannabis products in another state. At the moment, the list features 14 states including neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
We’ve made a list of the most commonly asked questions to make sure you know everything you need before you become a legal medical cannabis consumer.
Where can I use marijuana products?
According to the laws of New York State, marijuana products can be consumed only in private residences. Public consumption is prohibited so any patient can be charged for using marijuana products in public places.
How does marijuana pricing work?
Dispensaries provide the pricing plan for their products to the New York State Department of Health Commissioner. Every organization sets its own pricing. The Commissioner reviews the prices and checks whether they are reasonable. If so, the prices are verified and made available to customers.
Can I use medical cannabis at work?
Companies can prohibit or allow marijuana consumption during working hours depending on your medical condition; however, each employee should respect their workplace drug policy. Please note that if you are working in safety-sensitive positions, cannabis consumption is prohibited.
Is it legal to drive after using marijuana?
Since marijuana affects the senses, it is prohibited to drive and operate heavy machinery when using marijuana. However, it’s legal to drive when using CBD-based oils with very low THC content.
How much medical weed can I have?
Patients are currently only allowed to buy a 30-day supply of medical weed at a time. Current New York state laws allow marijuana consumers to possess only a small amount of cannabis. Should a police officer find you in possession of marijuana, you will be required to provide a medical marijuana card upon request. The maximum summons for possessing less than 1 ounce of recreational marijuana and between 1 and 2 ounces of marijuana (without a medical card) are $50 and $200, respectively.
Can I grow marijuana at home?
New York state laws don’t allow for growing cannabis at home, even for personal use.
New York state still has a lot of things to do to make cannabis fully legal. It takes time and patience, as well as an understanding of the benefits that recreational marijuana legislation can provide to the state.
If you want to become a legal medical marijuana consumer, contact MDBerry doctors. Our specialists will help you identify whether you are eligible for a medical cannabis card and answer all your questions. It only takes three steps to apply for the marijuana card at MDBerry:
- Complete an online application at mdberry.com.
- Speak with one of our licensed doctors via video chat.
- Get an online copy of your certification right away. The hard copy will arrive in 5-7 days by mail.
Get your card at MDBerry. We guarantee the best prices and no lines – enjoy a fast and simple medical marijuana qualification process.