A Closer Look at New York State's Adult-Use Cannabis Program

December 1, 2021

Recently, New York legalized adult-use cannabis within the state. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), enacted March 31st, 2021, and sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger, will establish a new office to oversee the decriminalization and regulation of adult-use marijuana. 

“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. I believe we have achieved that in this bill, as well as addressing the concerns and input of stakeholders across the board.” 

-Senator Liz Krueger 

The MRTA’s new Cannabis Law will combine the newly-created adult-use cannabis program with the existing medical cannabis program, as well as the existing hemp program. 

Establishing a New, Regulated Adult-Use Cannabis Market in New York 

First, through legalizing cannabis for adults 21 years of age or older, the Act creates a framework that will regulate cannabis in New York to protect public health and safety, while promoting social equity and economic development. 

The Office of Cannabis Management will begin to license cultivators, processors, distributors, and dispensaries to grow and sell cannabis in New York State. There will be laboratory testing and packaging implemented for cannabis products in order to protect consumer safety. 

Market regulations will focus on social and economic equity programs to encourage small businesses and communities that were disproportionately harmed by drug enforcement to participate in the new industry. 

“There were many important aspects of this legislation that needed to be addressed correctly -- especially the racial disparities that have plagued our state’s response to marijuana use and distribution as well as ensuring public safety -- and I am proud that through strong collaboration, we have reached the finish line.”

- Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins 

Taxation and Revenue Highlights in New York's Cannabis Plan 

Next, the MRTA creates a plan to tax adult-use cannabis where distributors would pay the following taxes, based on the per milligram amount of THC in the product (per a lab analysis): 

● 0.5 cents ($0.005) for cannabis flower 

● 0.8 cents ($0.008) for cannabis concentrate 

● 3.0 cents ($0.03) for edibles 

In addition to this, a 9% tax is added to retail sales, which goes to the State, as well as another 4% tax, which goes to the localities (1% will go to the County where the sale took place, and 3% is divided at the local level). 

Revenue from New York cannabis sales is divided for public use several ways, but 40 percent of the total is contributed to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund to support qualified locally-based organizations and programs that invest in communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug enforcement policies. This commitment to community reinvestment puts New York at the forefront in terms of social equity funding. 

New York State's Legal Adult-Use and Cannabis Possession Regulations and Exceptions 

As of March, adults 21 and older have been able to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use in New York. When legal sales begin in late 2022: 

● Adults will be allowed to store up to five pounds of cannabis in their homes. 

● Adults will be allowed to grow three cannabis plants at home. Homes with more than one adult will be allowed to grow six plants (three mature and three immature). 

● Cities and towns may have on-site consumption areas where people can use cannabis similar to tobacco consumption areas. 

● The Board will also be charged with regulating cannabis cultivation practices such as the ability to home-grow for medical purposes.


More Cannabis Use Guidelines 

Lastly, cannabis use will not be allowed in motor vehicles nor in outdoor dining areas at restaurants. 

It will remain against the law for people younger than 21 years old to possess, sell or use any amount of cannabis. No one may legally possess more than three ounces of cannabis or sell any amount without a license. 

Stay tuned to our NACB blog page for more news about cannabis legalization, and other pertinent informational content. 

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