The cannabis legalization movement just notched one of the biggest wins in the global fight for freedom and equality with New York officially becoming the 15th U.S. state to end prohibition with its borders. Cannabis is also legal in Washington, D.C., (which could become a state soon) and Virginia will be legal soon and New Mexico seems poised to join the growing number of states that are sweeping Reefer Madness prohibition into the dustbin of history where it belongs. The Empire State will be the second largest market in the United States and the third largest in the world, behind just California and Canada (although Mexico, with over 127 million people, may just leapfrog everyone soon). By adding its 19-plus million residents, over a third of Americans now live in states with legal cannabis. A financial, cultural, and media powerhouse, New York State brings an enormous amount of political capital to the legalization debate, which should help pass the SAFE Banking Act, and eventually, repeal federal cannabis prohibition in the coming years.
Adults can possess up to three ounces or 24 grams of cannabis concentrates under the new law, and as The New York Times reported, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) is a progressive legalization law:
New Yorkers are permitted to smoke cannabis in public wherever smoking tobacco is allowed, though localities and a new state agency could create regulations to more strictly control smoking cannabis in public. Smoking cannabis, however, is not permitted in schools, workplaces or inside a car.
Other changes will go into effect in the coming months when officials create the regulatory framework that will govern every aspect of a brand new, highly regulated market.
People, for example, will eventually be able to have cannabis delivered to their homes, consume cannabis products at lounge-like “consumption sites” and cultivate up to six plants at home for personal use. Dispensaries won’t open until more than a year from now, and localities could opt out of allowing such businesses.
This expansive law will also expunge old convictions, invest in communities disproportionately harmed by the Drug War. Kassandra Frederique, current Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who previously led the New York legalization campaign, issued the following statement:
“This day is certainly a long time coming. When we started working toward marijuana reform 11 years ago, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Because of the sheer extent of harm that had been inflicted on Black and Brown communities over the years, any marijuana reform that was brought forth had to be equally comprehensive to begin repairing the damage.
And I can confidently say, the result–thanks to the tireless work of DPA, our legislative partners and other advocates–is something truly reimaginitive. We went from New York City being the marijuana arrest capital of the country to today New York State coming through as a beacon of hope, showing the rest of the country what comprehensive marijuana reform–centered in equity, justice and reinvestment–looks like.
A sincere thanks to DPA and everyone that has put in decades of work in New York. I know firsthand how hard and smart DPA works and will forever be thankful in their efforts assisting advocates legalize cannabis and eliminate harmful drug possession arrests here in Oregon. This victory in New York will resonate across our nation, through the halls of Congress, in the White House, and around the globe. Step by step, state by state, freedom and common sense are on the march and today is a good day.