Recreational Marijuana & Social Equity in New York

For many years, New York residents have had access to medical marijuana through the existing legislation. And now recreational marijuana has been legalized statewide. The status of legal cannabis is constantly evolving, and there is a lot to keep up with as a cannabis consumer.

It’s legal for certified patients In New York State to access cannabis for medical purposes. The legislation was first introduced in the summer of 2014, by Governor Andrew Cuomo. At that time, the Compassionate Care Act allowed limited use of medical marijuana, including an initial ban on inhaled forms of consumption such as whole flower.

In late 2021, comprehensive changes were made to the bill removing smoking and increasing possession to a 60-day supply. More amendments were then made in early 2022, expanding qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patients and more.

The medical cannabis program in New York currently has over 120K patients registered. This number is increasing which indicates that the population is consuming medical marijuana for various health conditions, as was intended by the initial legislation.

Recreational Cannabis Becomes Legal in New York

Recreational marijuana became legal in March of 2021, for adult consumers in New York State. This legislation gives residents who are 21 years of age or older access to regulated cannabis through licensed dispensaries. But before the sale of adult-use recreational marijuana can begin, The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) still needs to create the regulatory framework.

This means that there are currently no recreational dispensaries or storefronts open in New York to purchase adult-use cannabis. Recreational consumers will have to wait longer for the state to open legal stores – which could mean years. The only legal product available in the state currently is through the medical marijuana program for those who qualify.

According to Forbes, one reason for the shift in policy is the states need for more tax revenue to assist with its economic recovery. Another reason for recreational legalization is to end the archaic legal framework, which has sent too many people to prison, a topic discussed in length by the Drug Policy Alliance.

###Social Equity & the Cannabis Industry in New York

The term social equity refers to a movement or campaign which measures systemic inequalities in society. This issue is very prevalent within the cannabis industry, as cannabis prohibition has resulted in the mass criminalization of average citizens. Cannabis legalization, including the consumption of recreational marijuana, has brought this issue into the limelight.

A lawsuit is underway that challenges the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), regarding cannabis, deeming it to be unconstitutional.

Citizens of New York state are currently still incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes, which is unjust under the circumstances. In addition, those with past cannabis criminal convictions are restricted from participating in the state’s evolving cannabis industry. As a result, many minority groups are underrepresented in the industry and don’t have the same opportunities.

The MRTA program does encourage social and economic equity with incentives for individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis prohibition. One step towards social equity is to expunge marijuana convictions and share 40% of all adult-use cannabis tax revenue with communities directly affected by the war on drugs.

The normalization of cannabis consumption is beginning to take hold. Whether you use cannabis for medical or recreational purposes you are, in fact, exercising your human rights. It is up to everyone to stand up against policies that do not work and make changes that reflect the values of each community.

HelloMD offers unlimited access to experienced healthcare practitioners through our Telehealth service to medical cannabis patients in New York State. Convenient and safe, virtual consultations from the comfort of your home. Get started.

Photo by Elsa Olofsson on Unsplash


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