Marijuana Legalization Bill Signed Into Law in New York

The New York legislature passed a bill legalizing marijuana in the state after votes Tuesday, and the legislation was signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo the next day. In addition to legalizing marijuana, the bill automatically will expunge previous marijuana convictions for activities that would be legal under the new law.

The measure had support from a significant majority of the legislators: The state Senate passed the bill with a 40-23 vote and the Assembly with a 94-56 vote.

“For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences and after years of hard work, this landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public,” Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday.

In a tweet Wednesday announcing his signing of the bill, the governor said, “This is a historic day. I thank the Leader and Speaker and the tireless advocacy of so many.” The bill was negotiated extensively between legislative leaders and the governor, according to an article by Marijuana Moment

Under the new law, adults older than 21 will be able to both possess and purchase marijuana and marijuana products from licensed retailers, and there are no penalties for up to 24 grams of marijuana concentrates, or 3 ounces of cannabis. Adults can have a limited number of plants for personal use. The bill also provides discrimination protections for those who use marijuana or work in a related business. Dispensaries in New York are expected to become licensed and start selling marijuana in 2022. 

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill decriminalizing marijuana nationwide in December, known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, or the MORE Act, which was received and read in the Senate and referred to a committee.

Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, there now are 15 states that have fully legalized marijuana use and many more that have legalized it for medical use.