Is Cannabis Legal in New York?

New York legalized weed for adults aged 21 and over in 2021, and even though it took some time to open dispensaries, you can possess up to 3 ounces completely legally.

Written by

Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson is the senior editor at CBD Oracle, and has been covering science, vaping and cannabis for over 10 years. He has a MS in Theoretical Physics from Uppsala...

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Cannabis legality map of New York
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Key Takeaways

  • New York legalized recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older in March 2021, with the first legal sales starting in December 2022. There are now 127 state-licensed dispensaries operating.
  • Possession of up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrate is legal; larger amounts incur fines or criminal charges, with penalties escalating based on the amount possessed.
  • Home cultivation is not yet allowed but is expected to be regulated by June 2024, permitting each adult to grow six plants with a household maximum of twelve.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) legalized cannabis for adults aged 21 or older: so yes, New York’s weed legalization has happened.

After a long delay, recreational dispensaries are now open in the state, but home cultivation still isn’t allowed.

The medical marijuana program will also be liberalized in the near future, but medical purchases are still allowed.

Yes, weed has been legalized in New York. However, you can only legally buy it at a state-licensed dispensary

New York’s weed laws went through a big change in March 2021, when the state legalized recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 or older. 

The MRTA specifies that you can only buy cannabis at a state-licensed dispensary. From the passage of the MRTA until December 29th, 2022, there was no way to legally buy marijuana. At that point, based purely on the law, it was only possible to transfer marijuana “without compensation.”

However, in practice, there was a “gray market” operating, where sellers take “suggested donations” in exchange for eighths. This situation persisted for over a year and a half until the first legal recreational sale took place in December 2022. 

From this point onwards, recreational dispensaries became increasingly common in New York, and at the time of writing (June 2024) there are 127 adult-use dispensaries operating across the state, according to the Office of Cannabis Management. 

Penalties for Possession

Since the MRTA legalized cannabis for adults aged 21 or older, there is no punishment for possessing up to 3 ounces of cannabis flower and up to 24 grams of concentrate outside your home, or up to 5 pounds of cannabis inside your home (page 4, section 221.15(1)(c)(5)).

However, there are still rules about possessing larger amounts.

  • Unlawful possession is defined as (knowingly) possessing more than 3 ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrate (outside your home), but less than the cutoff for criminal possession in the 3rd degree. This is punishable by a fine of up to $125.
  • Criminal possession in the 3rd degree is defined as possessing more than 16 ounces of cannabis or 5 ounces of concentrate (again, outside your home). This is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail or three years probation, as well as a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Criminal possession in the 2nd degree is defined as possessing more than 5 pounds of cannabis or two pounds of concentrate. This is a Class E felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 4 years and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Criminal possession in the 1st degree is defined as having more than 10 pounds of cannabis or 4 pounds of concentrate. This is a Class D felony, with a punishment of up to 7 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

New York has had legal medical cannabis since 2014, and this will be expanded along with the new law legalizing recreational marijuana.

This will increase the number of conditions covered and also allow physicians to prescribe larger supplies to patients.

Patient Possession Limits

You can get up to a 60-day supply of medical marijuana at one time.

Previously, this was only a 30-day supply, with a prohibition on smokeable marijuana, but these restrictions were both lifted alongside recreational legalization.

What constitutes a “day’s supply” depends on your prescription and your needs, with no firm numbers listed. However, the 3-ounce limit implied by the MRTA is a good guideline figure.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in New York?

As in most medical marijuana programs, you’ll need to get a medical marijuana card for New York if you want to make a purchase at a state-licensed dispensary.

The first step is going to your doctor, and discussing the issue with them and whether medical cannabis is an appropriate treatment. Provided your doctor agrees and has completed the required course (which takes a minimum of two hours), then they can issue you with a certification to be treated with marijuana.

However, there is a list of qualifying conditions that can help you determine whether or not you’re eligible. These include:

  • Cancer
  • HIV infection or AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injury with spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Pain that degrades health and functional capability as an alternative to opioid use
  • Substance use disorder
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Dystonia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Autism
  • Any other condition, at the discretion of your health care provider.

As in other medical marijuana programs, you need to register with the Office of Cannabis Management. After you’ve done this, you’ll be issued a temporary card, which you can use along with your regular ID to buy until you receive your official medical marijuana card.

Can You Consume Marijuana in Public in New York?

The basic rule for consuming cannabis in New York is that smoking cannabis is prohibited anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited. Of course, you can consume it in your home, and state-licensed consumption sites are also on the horizon.

There is a long page of guidance on where you can smoke, but generally speaking, aside from near schools, playgrounds, hospitals, health care facilities, or platform areas of railroad stations, you can smoke outside pretty much freely.

If you break this law, it’s punishable by a civil penalty of up to $25 or up to 20 hours of community service.

Can You Drive Under the Influence?

No, driving under the influence of marijuana still counts as a DUI in New York.

The state hasn’t established a “safe” limit or anything like that, and any burning marijuana in the vehicle (even if not being smoked by the driver) is banned under the state’s open container law.

The state also has an “implied consent” law, meaning that by driving on the state’s roads you’re considered to have consented to roadside blood, breath, urine, or saliva tests. If you refuse, it can be used as evidence against you and you’ll have your license suspended for a year.

For the actual DUI charge, the first offense is considered a misdemeanor and carries a fine of between $500 and $1,000, the possibility of jail for up to a year, or both. Your license will also be revoked for six months.

If it’s your second offense within 10 years, you get a mandatory $1,000 to $5,000 fine, up to four years in jail, and your license revoked for at least a year.

For the third offense in 10 years, the fine increases from $2,000 to $10,000, and the jail time can be up to seven years.

Delta-8 THC is restricted in New York, with the state’s Cannabis Control Board stating that delta-8 products can’t be legally sold, produced, or manufactured within the state.

It’s unclear where exactly the state stands on use and possession. But given the legalization of cannabis, it’s unlikely they’ll come down on you for some delta-8.

Is Weed Decriminalized in New York?

New York decriminalized weed in August 2019, making it a non-criminal violation to have weed provided it was less than 2 ounces. There was a $50 fine for up to one ounce and a $200 fine for up to two ounces.

However, the MRTA supersedes this law, since it completely legalizes having up to three ounces. So technically, since March 2021, cannabis isn’t just decriminalized in New York, it’s literally not a problem for cops at all unless you have a lot.

The MRTA legalized growing weed, but it isn’t actually allowed under the adult use law until regulations are released.

These will come within 18 months of the first adult-use retail sale, which means they should be released by the end of June 2024. When these rules are in place, each adult will be able to grow 6 plants – 3 mature, 3 immature – and a maximum of 12 per household (even if there are three or more adults living there).

However, until then, growing weed is technically not allowed in New York. However, as with delta-8, it’s questionable how much the police will really care if you’re operating within what will shortly become the legal limit.

Unless there is cause to crack down (a big bust or prominent story, for instance), it will probably slip under the radar.

The Future Outlook for Weed in New York

Things are going to get very green in New York. Their adult use law is considered one of the most liberal in the country, the market is already big, and will likely soon be huge.

After the very slow start and the trouble with the gray market in cannabis, the recreational industry is finally underway in the state. The biggest change on the horizon is the release of rules for home cultivation.

However, these are likely to be similar to in most other legal states, as detailed above, and won’t change much for most consumers. 


After legalizing recreational cannabis in 2021, New York’s legalized weed market is set to become one of the biggest in the country.

There are legitimate criticisms of how the law has been implemented, and this created a huge gray market, but overall the New York adult-use cannabis law is one of the most liberal implemented so far, and it’s loosening restrictions on the medical marijuana program in the process too.

It might have taken too much time to get up and running, but it should be smooth sailing for stoners in the state from here on out.

Editor’s note: We made an edit to this article on June 25, 2024, to clarify that you can possess up to 5 pounds of cannabis inside your home.