Updated on November 22, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Strangely, the birthplace of The Hotel Chelsea sex, drugs, and rock and roll culture, and the home of Woodstock waited until 2021 to legalize recreational pot. In March, New York state moved to legalize adult-use cannabis. And the new laws took effect immediately.
Are you imagining the stampede to local dispensaries? The new legislation made New York the 16th state in America to make recreational weed legal. Before you add the new recreational dispensary in your town to your GPS, there are a few things you should know about legal weed in New York.
What You Can Toke and Where You Can Smoke
People living in New York can smoke cannabis in public. But only where smoking tobacco is already allowed. And smoking cannabis in a smoke-free zone will also land you in some legal hot water. Not to mention having to pay a big fine. That includes schools, inside a car, public buildings, and in the workplace. You have to be aged twenty-one (21) years or older to use cannabis or visit a dispensary.
What kind of cannabis products can you buy in New York?
Concentrates and Oils.
Hotels and most rental or apartment buildings are a no-go when it comes to smokable cannabis. The other product types are hard to detect. But the landlord always reserves the right to prohibit controlled substances. And also for fire safety regulations.
How Much Recreational Weed Can You Carry in New York?
It is never a good idea to be “riding dirty,” but if you are headed to the dispensary, remember there are limits to legal quantities. With the new adult-use cannabis laws in New York, residents can possess up to three (3) ounces of weed for personal use. And no more than 24 grams of concentrated cannabis. That includes shatter, honey, and wax.
At home, there are fewer restrictions. New Yorkers will be able to grow their cannabis at home. If you are carrying more than 3-ounces of marijuana, you can be fined $125. People caught selling cannabis without a business license will be charged $250. And a possible misdemeanor charge for distribution.
Growing Cannabis at Home Will Be Legal Soon
Residents twenty-one (21) years and older will be able to group up to three mature plants and three immature plants (or seedlings). The cultivation cycle of six plants will make it easy to grow a continuous supply of cannabis. New York residents cannot sell the cannabis they grow at home. However, they can give it without legal problems to family members or friends aged twenty-one and up.
Right now, state regulators are giving licensed growers and dispensaries a head start. New Yorkers will not be able to legally cultivate cannabis for a period of 18-months. The timer on the home-grow laws taking effect will start after the first retail recreational sale takes place.
There is no stated limit right now regarding the maximum quantity of cannabis that New Yorkers can have in their home. But residents that home-grow are required to exercise safety and keep cannabis away from minors.
What Do You Have to Do to Renew a New York Medical Marijuana Card?
Check the expiration date of your New York medical card. You must renew your card before the expiration date and allow time for processing. You can schedule your telemedicine or in-office visit with a New York marijuana doctor in advance, about four weeks before your card expires.
An annual health check is required to stay in the patient registration program. Once a new recommendation or certificate is received, updating your profile is next. Patients must log into the New York State Department of Health (DOH) Medical Marijuana Certification Program.
Annual renewal of medical marijuana cards in the state of New York costs $50 for registration. The cost of the yearly health review and evaluation from a referring physician varies. It can be anywhere from $100 to more than $300, depending on the physician or medical practice.
Should I Keep my NY Medical Card? Taxes for Recreational Weed Will Be Much Higher
On adult-use or recreational cannabis sales in New York, there will be a 13% excise tax. Lawmakers have forecast that the 13% tax will raise more than $350M in tax revenue annually. And recreational legalization will also create up to 60,000 new jobs in New York.
Those are good things, except the tax part. And New Yorkers are already paid enough in taxes! That is a 13% excise tax on top of the 9% state sales tax, for a whopping 22% tax on all cannabis purchases. And if you think the amount of excise tax is high, Governor Cuomo originally proposed an 18% excise tax with Senate Bill 854.
If you opt to let your medical card expire, and flex your rights for recreational weed, here is something to feel good about. Have you ever wondered how the tax revenues from a state medical marijuana program are allocated?Here is how New York will be allocating adult-use marijuana sales tax revenues:
9% will go to the state of New York.
40% will be allocated to schools and educational programs.
40% will be used to support racial equity programs in POC (persons of color) communities.
4% will be given to local municipalities that permit adult-use dispensaries and cultivators.
As with any state that goes recreational, New York lawmakers have allowed cities and towns to decide for themselves. Some communities do not want dispensaries and will fight to prevent licensing cannabis businesses. The cities and towns that do support adult-use cannabis will receive 75% of all tax proceeds from local cannabis sales.
Telemedicine Available for Patients in New York
In January 2021, Governor Cuomo announced new legislation to expand telehealth in New York. Cuomo took executive action to expand healthcare accessibility for patients and lower healthcare costs for low-income households. Telemedicine for medical card health evaluations became available in 2020. New York State Assembly Bill A2552A ‘Telehealth’ made it legal for physicians to provide telemedicine services.
The legislation will also allow telemedicine services to be covered by Medicaid. And it will permit cultivators and processors to get interstate licensing. A move to help reduce historical shortages of cannabis in North East regions of New York.
Telemedicine services will be combined in the New York Health Information Exchange (HIE). Medical cannabis evaluations can be reported on the PMR and reviewed by the patient’s primary care provider (PCP). People who suffer from debilitating and chronic symptoms provide a better path to collaborative care and therapeutics between multiple practitioners, including physicians providing the medical card referral.
Funding Community Programs for Persons of Color (POCs) to Improve Racial Equity
You have probably heard the statistic that an American person of color is four times more likely to be arrested for a cannabis crime? That number alone is startling. In New York City alone, Hispanic, Latin, and Black Americans accounted for 94% of marijuana arrests conducted by the NYPD. The most recent New York City Health Department Survey shows that cannabis use is higher among Caucasian adults than other POC groups.
New York Medical Card? To Keep or Not to Keep? (That is the Question)
With recreational weed now legalized, many patients who received a medical card are wondering what to do. Should you keep your medical card? That means undergoing a health evaluation every year and paying the medical program $60.
Cost savings is the first legit consideration. Doing some simple math, calculate how much cannabis you would purchase on a monthly basis. Now, calculate the amount of taxes you will be paying, or multiply it by 22%. If you do not have a NY medical card, that’s how much extra money you will be spending on the excise tax. By comparison, it is a lot less than the cost of annual registration and a doctor’s referral for most people.
When you first got your New York medical card, you received suggestions from your referring physician. Someone who understood your health history, medical conditions, and how cannabis could help therapeutically. Since health conditions and medications can change over time, it is a good idea to have the support and supervision of a licensed practitioner.
Remember when “it got real” with the pandemic in March 2020? The massive lockdowns resulted in the closing of a lot of retail stores. That included everything from restaurants to coffee shops, public pools, and in recreational states, states, cannabis dispensaries. However, medical dispensaries were designated an “essential service” like a pharmacy. They remained open for patients.
The most important reason to keep your card. It may be one to two years before you will be able to buy at a recreational dispensary.