Understanding New York’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA)

On March 31, 2021, New York State made a significant move in its drug policies by legalizing adult-use cannabis through the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA). This historic legislation led to the creation of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which is managed by a Cannabis Control Board responsible for overseeing and implementing the law. The MRTA represents a pivotal shift in New York’s approach to cannabis, transitioning from prohibition to a regulated framework that encompasses adult-use, medical, and hemp cannabis.

One of the key distinctions made in the MRTA is between hemp and cannabis. Hemp is classified as cannabis containing 0.3% or less THC, the compound known for its psychoactive effects, including the sensation of being high. In contrast, adult-use and medical cannabis are categorized as varieties containing more than 0.3% THC. This classification is crucial for understanding the legal and regulatory landscape of cannabis in New York.

The MRTA has also had a profound impact on public health and safety. Prior to its enactment, cannabis-related arrests in New York City disproportionately affected people of color. In 2020, the last year before legalization, 90% of these arrests were of people of color, despite similar rates of cannabis use among all racial groups. With the law in place, cannabis arrests have seen a significant decline, marking a step towards rectifying these disparities.

For individuals in New York, the MRTA has established clear guidelines for cannabis possession and use. Adults 21 years and older are now legally allowed to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use. The law permits smoking or vaping cannabis in places where smoking tobacco is allowed, subject to certain exceptions. However, cannabis use is still prohibited in motor vehicles.

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The legalization of cannabis under the MRTA is more than just a change in drug policy; it opens doors to economic opportunities across New York. The Office of Cannabis Management’s adult-use cannabis market, established with the passage of the Cannabis Law, aims to bring these opportunities to every corner of the state.

Understanding New York
For more in-depth information about the MRTA and its impact, you can refer to the Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization fact sheet, Public Health and Safety overview, and Adult Use Information provided by the Office of Cannabis Management.

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