On Wednesday, March 31, New York became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2021, joining a rapidly growing list of places embracing the psychoactive plant. The legalization bill passed with ease on Tuesday night in both houses of state government, and in the morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation and made it official.
The bill allows for individuals 21 and older to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate outside the home. It also allows for individuals to grow up to six plants in their homes—three mature plants and three immature plants—with a cap of six mature plants and six immature plants per household.
Unfortunately, while legalization of the plant is effective immediately, it’s still illegal to sell recreational marijuana. The state needs time to establish a new state agency, the Office of Cannabis Management, and hammer out some regulatory details, meaning legal recreational sales probably won’t begin until 2022 or 2023. That said, while you won’t find any dispensaries popping up just yet, there is a lot of good that will come out of this bill in the near future.
“Unlike any other state in America, this legislation is intentional about equity,” said Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, Democratic majority leader in the Assembly, on the chamber floor. “Equity is not a second thought, it’s the first one, and it needs to be, because the people who paid the price for this war on drugs have lost so much.”
According to New York City data, Black and Latinx New Yorkers made up 94% of NYPD marijuana arrests in 2020. That statistic is especially disheartening considering the most recent NYC health department survey shows that the proportion of white New York City residents who use marijuana is much higher than that of Black and Latinx respondents.