Recreational Weed is Coming to New York

Lori Ann Reese

Posted by Lori Ann Reese on 03/29/2021 in Medical Marijuana

New York Recreational Weed

On Sunday, March 28th, the Associated Press released the news that people in New York state have been waiting for. Recreational weed will be another reason to love the Empire State. It is estimated that recreational legalization could bring in another $350 million in tax revenues annually for New York.

Many states opt to launch a medical marijuana program to establish the regulations and governance first. Then, evaluating the success and legal impact of the medical cannabis laws may opt to add legalized adult-use for residents. Now that the New York state legislature has a veto-proof Democratic majority, proponents of legalized recreational marijuana can pass through the new legislation.

“My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities.”

— Senator Liz Krueger (Sponsor of the Adult Use Bill and Chair of the New York Senate Finance Committee).

Members of the New York legislation will be voting on the proposed adult-use (recreational) cannabis bill on Tuesday, March 30th. The legislative boy’s goal is to enact a budget for the new recreational cannabis program by April 1st. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) will be updated to include collecting tax revenues from the proposed legalization of recreational cannabis in New York.

At the time of writing, thirty-six (36) states have legalized medical cannabis use. And only fifteen states have legalized recreational or adult-use cannabis.

What Are the Current Cannabis Laws in New York?

On January 7th, 2016, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) launched the medical marijuana program. The regulations were signed by Governor Cuomo, creating the Compassionate Care act. According to The New York State Medical Marijuana Program, just over 140,000 patients have been certified by 3,000 licensed practitioners.

Cannabis is legally available only to patients who are cardholding residents of New York. Patients must have one or more of the approved qualifying health conditions to become a registered patient. Only after being issued a medical card can patients legally purchase and possess limited quantities of cannabis for medicinal use.

Minors under the age of twenty-one with a qualifying health condition can receive medicinal cannabis with a caregiver’s assistance. The designated caregiver

NY Marijuana Health Benefits
Photo Credit: Sabelskaya | Deposit Photos

Does Medicaid in New York cover medical Marijuana?

According to the New York State Medical Marijuana Program, the cost of cannabis products is not eligible for reimbursement through Medicaid. Patients must pay for the cost of their medical cannabis out of pocket. Including any supplies required.

However, the cost of the medical health evaluation and follow-up appointments is eligible to be covered under Medicaid. That means that the fees charged by referring physicians can be claimed by patients who are receiving Medicaid support as long as the supervising physician is a Medicaid provider. Patients who use an out-of-network physician or a non-Medicaid provider may still be charged for evaluation, certification, and renewal visits.

The updated policy clarification for patients on Medicaid is available on the New York State Medical Marijuana Program resource page.

What Kind of Cannabis Will Be Available to Adults in New York?

The NYS Department of Health has urged New York residents to stop using vape products. This was in response to increasing reports of vape-associated lung illnesses and health risks. The NY DOH has continued investigating fuels and other chemicals used in vape products that may cause residents health risks.

The DOH does acknowledge that the health department approves medical cannabis products. And cannabis vapes are rigorously tested for contaminants, including pesticides. When recreational (adult-use) legalization becomes enacted, vape cartridges for cannabis oil will be available and legal to purchase. However, the DOH recommends that residents consult with a primary care provider to determine if smokable cannabis is the best and safest intake method. Particularly for people who have respiratory problems.

Marijuana-Related Convictions to Be Expunged Automatically in New Adult-Use Legislation

A single misdemeanor or felony offense can be substantial enough to cause lifelong problems. A drug charge can impact employability, making a citizen of New York unable to be bondable. A requirement for many different types of jobs from trucking to banking, insurance professions, and even retail work. 

The American Bar Association identified more than 40,000 state and federal regulations that directly impose ‘collateral consequences for individuals who receive criminal convictions. This includes both misdemeanor and felony charges. It can also disqualify New Yorkers with a past conviction from participating in the new ‘high’ growth industry to create thousands of new jobs across the state.

The war on drugs created an adverse impact on people of color (POC) and Latinx individuals in New York. In a 2018 report from The New York Times, data showed that Latin Americans and POCs were incarcerated at a rate of eight times (Hispanics) and five times (POCs) higher than Caucasian New York residents. 

Despite the statistics that indicated equal use among all ethnicities. After the report, New York City and other boroughs deprioritized marijuana prosecutions. But the racial disparity in arrest rates remained unchanged.

The new adult-use legislation will automatically expunge prior convictions and dismiss current charges for personal use. First-time offenders not charged with a violent crime in conjunction with a small amount (personal use) of cannabis will have the criminal record removed. 

Complex charges (i.e., distribution or manufacturing) or cannabis charges related to violent crimes or weapons may not be discharged, however. There will be no criminal charges for adult residents of New York found in possession of fewer than three ounces of cannabis.

Read the full summary of the new proposed recreational cannabis laws from the New York State Senate.

Featured Image: nixes | Deposit Photos

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