An overview of the medical and recreational marijuana laws in New York.
PUBLISHED APRIL 20, 2021; UPDATED NOVEMBER 25, 2022
After years of stalled efforts, New York finally passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in March 2021 with impressive social equity provisions. The bill also established the ‘Office of Cannabis Management' to monitor and oversee all cannabis-related matters- both medical and recreational. Once all regulations are laid out, the Office of Cannabis Management will take over the responsibility of the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) from the New York Department of Health. To protect consumer safety, there will be laboratory testing, packaging, and labeling requirements for all cannabis products.
New York became the 16th state in the US to allow adult-use cannabis and with a potential $4.2 billion industry, it is set to become the nation’s second-largest legal marijuana market after California. The process for setting up regulation and taxation of cannabis sales, and licensing guidelines for growers, producers, distributors, retailers, and delivery is underway and the state is also making significant efforts to address long-standing issues around race and social equity. Automatic expungement has been included for those convicted of acts that are no longer considered illegal. The first retail dispensaries to open will be from licensees part of the coveted conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CAURD) program. They are expected to open in early 2023. From there, the state is set to unveil more dispensaries and other licenses for the industry. We will update this page as more information becomes available. This page should not be considered legal advice.
An overview of the medical and recreational marijuana laws in New York.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) has legalized cannabis for adults 21 years of age or older, who can buy and possess up to 3 ounces (85 grams) of cannabis flower and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate (oils, tincture, edibles, vapes, etc.) at a given time. Registered medical patients may hold up to a 60-day supply of approved cannabis products at any time. Patients and designated caregivers must have their medical marijuana registry ID card on hand at all times when possessing medical cannabis.
Medical marijuana patients must be New York residents or temporarily residing in the state for medical treatment. Patients with the following conditions can qualify:
The OCM is expected to expand this list and add more qualifying medical conditions. Please check the New York State Department of Health Medical Marijuana website for more information about the medical marijuana program.
Adult New Yorkers can grow up to six plants in their home for personal use (3 mature plants and 3 immature plants) and a maximum of twelve plants per household (6 mature plants and 6 immature plants), even if there are three or more adults above the age of 21 in the residence.
Please be aware the home cultivation of cannabis plants is not allowed immediately. Pursuant to the MRTA, it may only be permitted after the Office of Cannabis Management issues regulations governing home cultivation of cannabis, which must be no later than 18 months after the first adult-use retail sale.
Cannabis can be consumed in a private home or at a state-licensed on-site consumption site. Smoking cannabis is prohibited anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited. Public consumption of marijuana through smoking or vaping will be handled as a violation of New York’s tobacco control laws.
Since consuming marijuana is still illegal under federal law, you can’t consume it on federal land, including national parks and national forests. Smoking publicly where it’s not permitted will subject people to a civil penalty of $25 or up to 20 hours of community service.
Everything you need to know about opening a retail cannabis location in New York.
The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is in charge of issuing licenses for businesses to participate in the adult-use and medical cannabis industries. The OCM will be issuing and implementing regulations by mid-2021 regarding the application process for different license types.
Residents of New York, aged 21 and above can apply for a marijuana business license, either alone or in partnership with someone. The OCM will actively promote social and economic equity applicants who have been harmed by the prohibition of cannabis, and has established a goal of awarding 50% of licenses to social and economic equity applicants.
A retail dispensary license authorizes the acquisition, possession, sale, and delivery of cannabis from the licensed premises of the retail dispensary by such licensee to cannabis consumers.
The OCM is prioritizing social and economic equity applicants for dispensary licenses and is yet to establish a standard process for obtaining a cannabis business license. At least 50% of permits will be reserved for social and economic equity categories, with particular priority to justice-involved individuals. Please continue to monitor their website for updates about adult-use retail dispensary licensing and more information about the social and economic equity program.
Read more about New York's social equity rules for cannabis businesses.
Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License owners will open the first retail dispensaries to open for legal adult-use cannabis sales in New York State, establishing businesses owned by justice-involved individuals at the bedrock of New York’s adult-use cannabis market. The Office anticipates receiving many applications for the CAURD license. Not all
applicants will be approved. To obtain a license, applicants must meet all eligibility requirements and submit a competitive application. Read more about the CAURD license on the OCM website.
A single company won’t be allowed to handle all parts of recreational cannabis — cultivation, processing, distributing, and dispensing — with the exception of micro-businesses. A cultivator or processor will be barred from having any financial interest in a marijuana retail business.
Medical marijuana dispensaries can obtain a license to distribute, cultivate, and process cannabis, but they will only be allowed to distribute their own products, and sell adult-use cannabis at only three of a medical operator’s dispensaries.
No person may own more than three retail dispensary licenses. Retail licensees may not own or have any interest in a licensee in the cultivation, processing, or distribution tier.
Learn how to remain compliant with New York’s cannabis retail laws.
Brick-and-mortar retail dispensaries, where people can purchase cannabis products, will have to adhere to zoning laws established by local municipalities. A dispensary cannot be on the same road and within 500 feet of school grounds, as defined in Section 409(2) of the New York State Education Law, or a community facility. A dispensary cannot be on the same street or avenue and within 200 feet of a building occupied exclusively as a house of worship.
Consumption at dispensaries will be limited to businesses with on-site consumption licenses, but social cannabis lounges in New York are definitely on the horizon. Entrepreneurs will eventually be able to apply to the state for licenses to open consumption lounges, bakeries, restaurants, yoga studios, hotels, and wellness centers, as long as they don’t sell alcohol on the premises.
Licensed adult-use marijuana retailers may sell cannabis to adults aged 21 and older, with a valid government-issued identification card, and employees must check purchasers’ IDs before making the sale.
Valid identification for the purpose of determining a customer’s age includes:
• a valid federal, state, or local government identification, including IDNYC, stating the customer’s age and a photograph of the individual’s face;
• a valid driver's license or non-driver identification card issued by the department of motor vehicles, the federal government, any United States territory, commonwealth or possession, the District of Columbia, a state government within the United States, or a provincial government of the dominion of Canada;
• a valid passport issued by the United States government or any other country; or
• an identification card issued by the armed forces of the United States.
Retail dispensaries may sell cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabis products, and cannabis extracts.
Licensees may only offer for sale:
• cannabis products obtained from a distributor;
• cannabinoid hemp products (if licensed to do so);
• cannabis paraphernalia;
• stationary, gifts, and other minor incidentals4;
• branded merchandise and apparel containing the licensee’s brand, including jewelry and accessories (in adult sizes only); and
• other items as approved by the OCM.
Yes, medical dispensaries can sell recreational cannabis, at a maximum of 3 locations.
The MRTA has established three taxes on adult-use cannabis. There is a tax imposed at the distributor tier based on the milligrams (mg) of total THC in the cannabis product which varies depending on the cannabis product form.
On the retail sale to the consumer, there are two taxes:
These taxes do not apply to medical cannabis.
All cannabis taxes would be deposited in the New York state cannabis revenue fund, a percentage of which would cover costs to administer the program and implement the law. The remaining funding would be split three ways:
Yes, delivery of cannabis and products will be allowed but a separate license will be issued to cannabis delivery businesses, and localities cannot block it.
Retailer licensees can retail sales of cannabis items on any date after the date that the Office of Cannabis Management adopts its initial rules and regulations and licenses have been awarded. Retailers can legally sell to persons 21 years of age or older, so long as the municipality in which it is located is engaged in retail sales.
Prior to and during this transition phase leading up to eventual retail sales of cannabis items, every municipality would have the option to authorize and regulate the times of operation, place, manner, and number of licensed cannabis businesses operating within its jurisdiction, in a manner consistent with the bill's regulation of such businesses.
Every regulated cannabis market has its own tracking and reporting requirements. Find here how New York monitors commercial cannabis activity.
Most states require dispensaries and cannabis stores to track and trace all of their cannabis products for regulatory and compliance reporting requirements. Records identifying the source of each ingredient must include the date of receipt of the ingredient, vendor’s name and address, name of the ingredient, etc. The vendor’s batch number, lot number of the product, and control number used to identify all components in the marijuana product(s), as well as the grade and quantity, must be mentioned in inventory reports.
As per the OCM, licensees must use an inventory tracking system capable of compiling the dispensary’s cannabis product inventory, transaction data, and tax liability. That system must be compatible and capable of reporting real-time data to the Office.
New York has not appointed an official cannabis monitoring system yet.
Yes. Cova's Cannabis Dispensary POS Software and inventory management system can be integrated with all tracking and monitoring systems, including Metrc, and has all the features needed to keep cannabis retailers compliant, including:
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