As of March 31, 2021, the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) was enacted, signifying a historic move by legalizing adult-use cannabis, also known colloquially as marijuana or recreational marijuana, in New York State. This pivotal legislation gave rise to the establishment of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which is managed by the Cannabis Control Board. The Board’s responsibilities include the comprehensive regulation of adult-use, medical, and hemp cannabis.
The legalization of cannabis introduces new regulations and opportunities for adults over the age of 21. As detailed in the New York State Law, individuals of legal age are now permitted to possess, purchase, or transport up to three ounces of cannabis and up to twenty-four grams of concentrated cannabis. Moreover, it is also permissible for adults to give or transfer these amounts without compensation.
An integral component of the Cannabis Law is the commitment to social equity, which aims to rectify the historical injustices caused by the prohibition and over-criminalization of cannabis, particularly in communities of color. To support these communities, the Cannabis Law mandates that those adversely affected by previous laws are afforded equitable opportunities to engage in the legal New York cannabis market.
The Cannabis Control Board, under the Cannabis Law, is also tasked with devising a social and economic equity plan. This plan is formulated in collaboration with the Chief Equity Officer and Executive Director and incorporates public input to ensure the promotion of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the licensing process and commerce sector.
Cannabis basics in New York have also been affected by the changes. Hemp is categorized separately, defined as varieties of cannabis that contain 0.3% THC or less, and is associated with non-psychoactive effects. In contrast, adult-use and medical cannabis are defined by a THC content greater than 0.3% and are known for their psychoactive properties.
The legalization of adult-use cannabis is about more than policy change; it’s a pathway for economic growth across New York. Yet, while cannabis is legal for adults, the commencement of legal adult-use sales is still on the horizon. The Office of Cannabis Management continues to foster awareness through initiatives like Cannabis Conversations, aiming to educate New Yorkers on health, safety, and the law.
In essence, the legalization of adult-use cannabis as enacted by the MRTA represents a fundamental shift in drug policy and opens avenues for economic development while striving to ensure social justice and equity.