March ended on a ‘high’ note! In a historic move for New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the legalization of recreational marijuana use on Wednesday, March 31st. Weed enthusiasts have been challenging its prohibition for years, and the failure to fully decriminalize it last year was a disappointing blow. Now, they’ll be going a little harder on 4/20/2021 as they celebrate NY joining the marijuana movement!

What is effective for marijuana legalization right now?

It is now completely legal for people ages twenty-one and over to carry up to three ounces of pot. It can be smoked anywhere cigarettes can be smoked, such as designated smoking areas at establishments and on sidewalks that are not within fifteen feet of a healthcare facility. Anywhere you can’t smoke a cigarette – in a car, at work, at school – you can’t smoke weed. And in New York City, that means you can’t smoke it at playgrounds, parks, beaches, or any other place under the authority of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

Criminal records will be automatically expunged of any previous convictions of marijuana possession under the new legal limit. Criminal sentences currently being served will be adjusted accordingly to fit what the proper punishment should have been under the new law.

What will be effective for marijuana legalization in the near future?

It’s looking real 2022-ish, but eventually, you will be able to purchase pot from dispensaries, indulge in its consumption at designated sites (think bars and lounges with weed instead of alcohol!), and even grow up to six marijuana plants of your own! You will also be able to have weed delivered to you at home (instapot?). 

How will Marijuana legalization Benefit New York?

First of all – the economy! This legislation is estimated to generate 30,000 to 60,000 jobs for New Yorkers for marijuana production, distribution, and retail sales. Equity programs will be instated, meaning that half of the marijuana business licenses will be granted to those owned by women, minorities, disabled veterans, and families legally disadvantaged by the previous criminalization laws. In addition, the $350-million-dollar annual tax revenue will be distributed back into NY communities:

  • 40 percent to education
  • 40 percent to Community Grants Reinvestment Fund
  • 20 percent to Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund

Weed has already been scientifically proven to alleviate the symptoms of an array of ailments and diseases, but medical marijuana treatment was previously limited to only a handful of conditions. The new laws help to expand this list, as well as extend the supply limit for patients from a 30-day supply to a 60-day supply.

Legalization is a big move forward for communities, especially minority communities, that have been negatively affected by over-criminalization. Until now, police officers could use “the smell of marijuana” as a probable cause for ‘stop-and-frisk’ – the unfair practice of questioning and searching people unprovoked and without a warrant. This controversial practice has aided in racial profiling, affecting mainly Latino and Black men.

What’s the catch for legalization of Marijuana in NY?

Even though adult use of marijuana will be legal state-wide, towns and villages can ban dispensaries and consumption sites. Towns in Long Island Beach are already planning on forbidding the sale of the plant, citing the smell, the prospect of it being a “gateway drug”, and the potential for increased DUI.

And, as with any product that has government involvement, it will be heavily regulated. Retail sales will incur a 9 percent state tax, and 4 percent local tax. Businesses (aside from those providing medical marijuana) will only be allowed to obtain one license, meaning they can choose to either grow the pot, sell it wholesale, or sell it retail, but they cannot do more than one of those things. 

And for the naysayers?

Remember a time not so long ago, when weed and alcohol were in the same boat? As with any mind-altering substance, there are potential benefits, risks, positive and negative effects. Government regulations are set in place to enhance our protection against any kind of substance abuse and keep everyone accountable. We all know people who don’t smoke weed, just as we all know people who don’t drink alcohol. If you don’t like it – don’t do it. Whatever you choose, enjoy responsibly!

Angela Caico

Angela is a full-time Journalism major at Buffalo State College. When she's not working as an Uber driver, she loves hanging out with her teenage daughter, cruising around the city in her Jeep Wrangler, or drinking wine with her friends. She likes to try out a new restaurant each week (open to suggestions!) and has a crazy obsession with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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