The medical use of marijuana is now legalized in most states in the US. New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014 and was the 23rd state to do so. On matters relating to marijuana, The Empire State has enacted strict laws to regulate its use. Likewise, significant amendments have been made to the original marijuana legislation. Just five years after the legalization of medical cannabis in New York, the state had licensed 40 fully-functional dispensaries within its jurisdiction.
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Medical Cannabis in New York
The Empire State legalized medical cannabis for the first time in 2014. The state’s law mandates patients to obtain either a medical marijuana card or a recommendation from medical cannabis doctors or certified physicians registered with a medical cannabis program. It should be noted that there are more than 1,700 registered medical marijuana doctors in New York.
What Type & Amount of Medical Marijuana Can You Possess?
New York’s updated marijuana law specifies the kind and amount of medical cannabis that you can possess at a time. According to the legislation:
- All forms of medical cannabis, including oils, edibles, tinctures, and extracts, and their consumption methods, are determined by the state’s Health Commissioner. The official must give his/her approval before the products are sold.
- Patients under marijuana medication or their caregivers shouldn’t possess more than a 1-month supply of cannabis products. Whatever they keep should be within the prescription made by a licensed practitioner. It should also be consistent with the relevant Department of Health (DOH) regulations.
- The supply of marijuana should only comprise non-smokable products, including capsules, oil for vaporization, and liquids.
- Patients can only refill their stock during the last week of their 1-month supply.
- Medical cannabis shouldn’t be consumed in a public place.
DOH officials also announced the expansion of New York’s medical marijuana program in early 2016. This saw the approval of lozenges, lotions, ointments, chewable tablets, and patches as medical marijuana products. Before this, patients were limited to using liquids, oil for administration via inhalers or vaporization, and marijuana capsules.
Also, any condition that is accompanied by either one or more of these associated conditions qualifies for medical marijuana treatment:
- Cachexia (a condition characterized by extreme muscle wasting and weight loss)
- Severe nausea
- Persistent or severe muscle spasms
The Commissioner of Health can either add more or disqualify some of the conditions mentioned above. For instance, the official refused to add rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, and dystonia to the list of qualifying conditions.
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Lab Testing for Medical Cannabis
Before medical marijuana products are sold at New York dispensaries, lab testing must be conducted. All medical marijuana products produced and sold in New York must be tested to establish that they comply with relevant standards and regulations.
Officers, board members, partners, owners, managers, members of registered dispensaries, principal stakeholders, or their immediate family members should not have voting rights or an interest in a lab that undertakes testing marijuana products.
The products are tested to establish their cannabinoid level. Testing also helps to determine the profile of the following chemical, metal, and microbiological contaminants:
- Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria
- Grown regulators used in marijuana production, including abscisic acid
- Escherichia coli
- Fungicides, pesticides, and other chemicals used during production
- Any other substances identified by the Commissioner of Health
NY Marijuana Laws and Caregivers
According to the state’s marijuana laws, patients who qualify for medical marijuana treatment can have not more than two caregivers. On their part, the caregivers should serve less than five patients. Their work is to help medical cannabis patients to obtain, administer, and possess medical marijuana. Once a patient designates his/her caregivers, they will undergo a rigorous application and vetting process similar to what patients go through. Likewise, they must possess the required identification documents.
The Controlled Supply of Medical Cannabis to Patients
During the first few years of medical marijuana legalization in New York, the state only had five approved marijuana producers. Furthermore, these producers could only create five marijuana strains or products. This meant that the entire state could only access anywhere between 5 to 25 marijuana medications. These were not enough to treat the qualifying conditions and the more than 114,000 New Yorkers who depended on medical marijuana products for survival.
Fortunately, things changed in 2017 when five more entities were licensed to grow and dispense marijuana. For your information, the state’s Department of Health designated chronic pain as a qualifying condition in September 2016. This led to significant growth in the number of medical marijuana patients in the state.
What Does the Law Say About Marijuana Cultivation?
It’s illegal to cultivate marijuana for personal use in New York. This applies to both the recreational and medicinal use of weed. A straightforward solution to plugging the state’s marijuana supply deficit would have been the legalization of home-growing. However, the state found a more viable solution to this problem.
Five additional organizations were accredited to produce and dispense marijuana. Moreover, patients’ access to cannabis dispensing facilities in the state was improved. The five newly-accredited medical marijuana producers are:
- Citiva Medical, which is licensed to produce marijuana in Orange County.
- Valley Agriceuticals, which makes marijuana in Orange County.
- New York
- Diverse cannabis market across the state
- Ensuring geographical access to marijuana throughout New York
The Recreational Use of Marijuana in NY
Before delving into further details regarding the recreational use of marijuana in New York, it’s essential to address one nagging question: Is recreational cannabis possession legal in the state?
Well, the answer is a forthright NO. Although the medical use of marijuana in New York has been legalized, recreational marijuana possession remains illegal. Possessing a small amount of recreational-use marijuana is considered a civil offense, whereas large amounts constitute a criminal offense.
You stand to be prosecuted if you are arrested with marijuana yet you’re not a medical cannabis patient or a caregiver. Even so, the possession of fewer than 25 grams of recreational marijuana was decriminalized in the mid-1970s. It got decriminalized even further in July 2019.
This sounds like a paradox, right?
Well, don’t rack your brains too hard, looking for answers.
Here’s what you should know:
- Offenders who are caught with less than an ounce of recreational marijuana face a fine of $100 on the first offense, $200 if they get arrested for a second time on a similar violation, and $250 when they get charged for the third time. The third arrest comes with a 5-day prison term.
- Those who are caught with between one to two ounces of recreational marijuana face a jail term of up to 3 months as well as a $500 fine.
- Anyone who is found with more than two ounces of recreational marijuana faces a misdemeanor charge. This type of charge is punishable by a short jail term and a small fine. The maximum penalty is a year-long jail term and a fine of $1,000.
- The possession of recreational cannabis weighing between 8 to 160 ounces is a felony, which carries a maximum jail term of four years plus a fine of $5,000.
- Possessing cannabis in full public view is considered a misdemeanor and attracts a 3-month jail term plus a fine of $250.
On 1st April 2020, New York’s budget didn’t include cannabis. This was a significant blow to the cannabis industry in the state. Producers, dispensers, and other industry players had invested a lot of time, resources, money, and effort preparing for the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana.
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What Does the Law Say About Marijuana Dispensaries?
Once patients acquire marijuana cards or recommendation letters, they can visit any state-licensed cannabis dispenser and legally purchase marijuana. However, it’s best to keep the following key considerations in mind:
- You cannot purchase more than a 30-day supply of cannabis from a marijuana dispensary.
- Most of the dispensaries that you’ll come across in NY only accept cash payments.
- The dispensaries don’t sell smokable marijuana.
- The state established the Office of Cannabis Management to decide on matters relating to the licensing of retail cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption café and lounges.
- In New York, medical marijuana dispensaries cannot be approved if they are within 500 feet of schools or 200 feet of churches and other worship places.
It’s also essential to keep in mind that the laws mentioned above are specific to the medical consumption of marijuana.
Recreational Cannabis Laws and Penalties
Whether you’re a medical cannabis patient in New York or a recreational user from another state, it’s best to be aware that the sale or possession of recreational marijuana in NY is considered a crime. There’s what the law says about recreational marijuana:
- If you’re found with less than 2 grams of recreational cannabis, and there’s no profit, you’ll have committed a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for your offense will be a 3-month jail term plus a fine of $500.
- The sale of fewer than 25 grams of recreational cannabis for profit is considered a misdemeanor. Thus, it’s punishable by a 1-year jail term and a maximum fine of $1,000.
- If you’re caught selling recreational marijuana weighing between 25 grams and 4 ounces, you face a maximum jail term of 4 years and a fine of $5,000.
- If the amount is between 4 to 16 ounces, the maximum sentence is 7 years plus a fine of $500.
- Selling more than 16 ounces of cannabis comes with a maximum jail term of 16 years plus $15,000 in fines.
- If you’re caught using minors to sell marijuana, you face a 4-year sentence and a fine of $5,000.
- Selling marijuana to minors is punishable by a jail term of up to 7 years plus a fine of $5,000.
- Trafficking any amount of recreational cannabis in New York carries a maximum fine of $100,000 as well as a mandatory jail term.
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Laws Regarding the Possession of Marijuana Concentrates and Hash
Hash and marijuana concentrates are subject to a unique set of rules in New York.
- The possession of up to 7 grams of marijuana concentrates is considered a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a 1-year jail term and $1,000 in fines.
- Possessing between a quarter ounce and one ounce of marijuana concentrate is considered a felony, which carries a maximum maxim jail term of 7 years plus a fine of $5,000.
- The possession of over an ounce of marijuana concentrates carries a 15-year jail term and a fine of $15,000.
Possessing, using, or selling cannabis paraphernalia is illegal in New York. By paraphernalia, we imply all items used in the cultivation, harvesting, testing, and marijuana storage. Such paraphernalia’s sale or possession is considered a misdemeanor and carries a maximum jail term of 1 year and $1,000 in fines.
New York lawmakers have reviewed the state’s marijuana legislation in a bid to improve policing. Even so, the state has again failed to set aside a budget for cannabis in 2020.
Getting arrested for marijuana possession is a scary experience and something you should avoid at all costs. For this reason, it’s best to be aware of the laws and penalties that regard marijuana possession and use in New York. In doing so, you’ll avoid getting arrested because of marijuana possession or use, something that thousands of New Yorkers face every year.