When New York revamped its marijuana laws last year, a lot changed quickly. Quite suddenly, it was legal for adults to possess less than 3 ounces of cannabis and to enjoy it in their homes. They could even grow up to six plants for their own use. People who had been convicted of certain cannabis-related crimes saw their records expunged.
Some of the other changes have taken longer. Now, more than a year after the passage of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, regulators are getting ready to hand out the first licenses for cannabis dispensaries. According to news reports, New York will assign 150 licenses for recreational sales this fall. About 70 of these will be in the New York City area. Within the next few years, the state expects to have more than 900 licensed dispensaries. The state expects legal cannabis sales to generate more than $4 billion a year by 2027
The New York Times reported that more than 500 people and businesses have applied for the 150 licenses this fall, and found that many of them are people who had previously been convicted of cannabis-related crimes. These convictions threatened to destroy their lives, but the new laws could give them a chance to develop successful and legal businesses.
Be careful with cannabis
While change is in the air, it’s important to remember that New York’s new cannabis laws don’t mean anything goes. Simple possession of 3 ounces or more of cannabis is still punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possession of 8 ounces or more is treated as a felony, carrying a penalty of up to 4 years behind bars and a fine of up to $5,000.
Sales are also strictly controlled. If you don’t have a dispensary license, selling 25 grams or less can land you in jail for up to a year, and you could face a $1,000 fine. If you are convicted of selling more than 25 grams, you will face felony charges that could put you in prison for up to 4 years.
So, yes, New York is easing its cannabis laws to some extent, but many people will continue to face serious drug charges in the months and years ahead. They need to learn about their options for criminal defense.