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What Cannabis Legalization Means For New Yorkers

On March 31, 2021, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation immediately legalizing cannabis for recreational use. However, don’t expect to be buying recreational cannabis anytime soon. While certain parts of the bill go into effect immediately, others will take some time to implement.

When Will Recreational NY Cannabis Sales Start?

For the time being, all we can do is guess. But based on the timelines of other states that have legalized cannabis, industry analysts expect New York’s recreational cannabis sales to begin sometime around mid-to-late 2022. New Yorkers will also be able to have cannabis delivered right to their homes once sales go live. And it’s also believed that on-site cannabis consumption lounges will be open to New Yorkers around the same time. 

The delay between the signing of the bill and the beginning of sales can be chalked up to legislative details. While the bill does spell out the general expectations of legalization, it’s leaving most of the details to be decided later by the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board. Over the coming months, these regulatory bodies will be tasked with figuring out the details of licensing, tracking, taxes, and more.

Even after these details are established, it will still take some time for licenses to be distributed and stores to open. Additionally, experts have warned that it could take several years for cultivators and distributors to set up a state-wide network that can actually meet the projected demand of New York residents. 

It’s also important to remember that jurisdictions in the state of New York have the ability to opt-out of recreational cannabis sales. This means that even if recreational cannabis is legalized at the state level, not much will change in these jurisdictions. Localities have been given until the end of 2021 to make a decision on the matter so you can expect to know by year’s end if recreational cannabis will be coming to your part of the state or not. 

How Will The Legalization of Recreational Cannabis Affect Medical Patients?

New York medical cannabis patients are also expected to enjoy major benefits from the passing of the new bill. Tucked inside the legislation are major changes to the state’s medical cannabis program which are expected to expand the program and greatly benefit MMJ patients.

For starters, the state plans to make it easier for patients to be approved. The program is expanding in two ways. First, several new conditions are expected to be added to the list of qualifying conditions, something that has long been sought by doctors in the state. Additionally, doctors and other certified practitioners will be granted permission to use their discretion when qualifying patients, even if the condition they are prescribing for is not currently on the list of approved qualifying conditions.

Additionally, smokable cannabis flower will now be permitted for medical patients. Surveys from other states indicate that many medical cannabis patients prefer to smoke cannabis since it produces quicker effects than edibles, oils, or capsules. In addition, patients will soon be able to purchase a 60-day supply of medical cannabis from dispensaries, up from 30 days. 

However, these changes won’t be made right away. Medical cannabis patients shouldn’t expect any major changes to the program for at least 6 months as regulatory bodies continue to iron out the details. Unfortunately, New York recreational and medical cannabis consumers will have to sit tight for now, but 2022 promises to bring big changes to the way that state residents obtain and enjoy cannabis.