Is Recreational Weed Legal in New York?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
August 15, 2021
New York Cannabis legal
New York Cannabis legal

From the Bronx to Queens, to New York City to Buffalo, Marijuana is legal in the state of New York.  Cannabis was decriminalized in 2019, and in 2021 it finally became fully legalized with lawmakers coming up with legislation to regulate the marijuana market within this state.  Also, medical marijuana has been legal in the Empire State for quite some time.


History of Weed Laws

In 2014, New York passed their first medical marijuana legislation, enacting the Compassionate Care Act which permitted medical patients to legally access marijuana from dispensaries through a state-regulated program.  In 2019, the state came very close to fully legalizing marijuana for adult use.  In July of 2019, Governor Cuomo signed a bill decriminalizing possession, although lawmakers came short of fully legalizing the marijuana market in the state. 


Finally, in March of 2021, New York passed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act which effectively legalized adult-use cannabis for those 21 years of age or older.  This came after debate within legislature regarding expungement of past marijuana-related offenses, and laws pertaining to driving under the influence of marijuana.


This new law determined that adults could legally purchase, possess, and transport up to 3 ounces of marijuana, or 24 grams of concentrate.  A licensing guideline was also developed for cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.  Those who were convicted of marijuana-related crimes under the old laws were either given expungement or resentencing if their crimes were no longer applicable to the new laws.  The state’s Department of Health oversees the medical marijuana program, while the Office of Cannabis Management was developed in 2021 to oversee the recreational market.


Where Can a Person Legally Purchase Weed in New York?

As of now, only medical patients can purchase cannabis in the state of New York, as the state has yet to develop legislation specifically applicable to recreational dispensaries.  Medical patients can find state-licensed dispensaries throughout the state and do require a medical card to make purchases.  They are permitted to purchase 60 days’ worth of cannabis at a time, and they must provide a note from their doctor specifying the type of cannabis product that is recommended to them.


Caregivers who are authorized by the state are permitted to make purchases on behalf of patients from state-licensed dispensaries.  Some dispensaries in the state make home deliveries to patients.


Where Can Cannabis Legally Be Used?


It is illegal for a person to smoke or vape cannabis in areas in which tobacco smoking is prohibited.  Also, it’s illegal to smoke or vaporize cannabis within 100 feet of school grounds.  Also is strictly illegal to consume cannabis of any kind when in a vehicle, whether as a passenger or driver, and whether or not the vehicle is moving, unless on private property. 


Note: It is illegal to transport cannabis outside of state lines.


Possession Laws

Adult cannabis users can legally possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis, and up to 24 grams of cannabis concentrate.  Meanwhile, authorized medical patients can have a 60-day supply of cannabis at one time.  While in possession of cannabis, patients and caregivers must have their state-issued medical ID accessible.


Can Residents Grow Their Own?

Currently, it is illegal for any cannabis user to grow their own marijuana.  However, the law is expected to change soon, allowing cannabis users to have up to 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants at home at any time.


Medical Marijuana

New York’s Medical Marijuana Program can be accessed through an online portal in order to fill out an application.  The patient must first receive a diagnosis from a healthcare provider approved by the state’s Department of Health and receive a written certification.  The state requires a $50 fee upon applying.  Fees may be waived in the event of proven financial hardship. 


Qualifying Conditions:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Huntington’s disease 
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuropathy
  • Opioid use disorder (only if enrolled in a treatment program pursuant to article 32 of the mental hygiene law.)
  • Opioid replacement
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Cachexia/Wasting syndrome 
  • Severe or chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe or persistent muscle spasm
  • Seizures


Patient Qualifications:

Qualifying to be part of the medical marijuana program requires a certification from a doctor that contains a diagnosis of one of the above conditions.


How to Register for Medical Marijuana in New York

To register, you need a certification from a doctor.  You must visit the portal to apply for authorization.  If approved, you will receive a medical marijuana card that is valid at any state-licensed dispensary.


Qualifying as a Caregiver

A patient can designate up to two caregivers, and facilities can be designated if applicable, although facilities are not required to oblige.  Caregivers can provide care to up to 4 patients at any given time.


Registering as a Caregiver

A caregiver must go through the same application process as the patient, and they will receive a medical marijuana card that is valid at state-licensed dispensaries.


Reciprocity Laws

The state of New York does not recognize reciprocity, which means that out-of-state medical patients cannot purchase cannabis from New York dispensaries.


Licensing Laws

The Department of Health’s Environmental Laboratory Approval Program oversees regulation of cannabis products within the state and ensures that products are third-party lab-tested prior to being sold.  The testing process looks for contaminants, while recording the potency and cannabinoid profile of products.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1: Where Can I Buy Weed in New York?

In New York, you cannot yet legally purchase cannabis as a recreational user.  The state only recently signed legalization for marijuana and has not yet fully developed their regulation of retail establishments for adult users.  But, if you are a medical patient, you can find dispensaries throughout the state that require a valid state-issued medical marijuana card at the time of purchase.


#2: Is Dabbing Legal in New York?

New York State permits the sales of concentrates, which means that dabbing is considered legal in the state. 


#3: Can I Smoke Weed in Public?

Smoking or vaping weed in non-smoking areas and near school grounds is strictly prohibited. 


#4: Can I Grow Weed?

New York does not presently allow residents to grow their own cannabis, but the laws are planned to go into effect in the near future that will allow certain residents to grow marijuana at home.


#5: Can I Buy Edibles in New York?

It is legal to purchase and consume THC edibles in NY.  The state’s dispensaries sell edibles for medical patients, and when recreational dispensaries are established, they will also offer edibles to adult consumers.


#6: Does New York Allow Caregivers to Administer Cannabis to Medical Patients?

Patients can apply to designate a caregiver who can administer cannabis to them and retrieve it from medical dispensaries.  They will receive a medical card that is valid at state-licensed retailers.