Earlier this morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that makes cannabis legal for all adults.
The possession aspects of the law take effect immediately. It is now legal—yes, today—for adults 21 or older to possess up to three ounces of marijuana or 24 grams of concentrates.
Retail cannabis stores are expected to open later in 2022. They will be licensed by a new state agency, the Office of Cannabis Management.
After three long years of negotiation and struggle, lawmakers voted to pass the legalization bill in an evening session on Tuesday night. Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law with unusual speed, making it official at 8am Wednesday morning.
The immediacy of the law’s effect is unusual. Most laws passed by any state legislature take effect at the beginning of the following year, or at the beginning of the next fiscal year. New York’s “effective now” clause came about because of the state’s dismal record of arrest and punishment when it comes to cannabis. Despite the fact that marijuana had been “decriminalized” long ago, more than 100,000 New York State residents continued to be arrested every year.
Across the state, Black residents were 4.5 times more likely to be arrested than their white neighbors, despite equal consumption rates.
The law’s immediate effect also came about because of the work of legislators like Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), and Sen. Liz Krueger (D- Manhattan) who demanded strong equity measures—and not just a business-first measure.