In New York City, recreational use of marijuana remains illegal—but that hasn’t stopped the cannabis scene from thriving. Although medical marijuana was legalized in the Big Apple in 2016, the city has just recently loosened its stance on recreational cannabis.
Last September, the city rolled out new guidelines, with police now giving tickets rather than arresting people for simple possession. As a result, arrests for possession fell from an average of 1,300 per month to just 151 arrests in the month following adoption of the new guidelines.
That move was advocated by Mayor Bill de Blasio and reflects the growing overall tolerance toward recreational usage. In fact, the entire state could soon be seeing a change in legislation.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included a study into the pros and cons of statewide legalization in his 2018 budget, and that study by the state Health Department concluded that adults in NYC should be able to use marijuana for recreational purposes, with a 7 to 10 percent tax imposed.
“[The] study by the state Health Department concluded that adults in NYC should be able to use marijuana for recreational purposes”
That’s a significant pivot for Cuomo, who had previously demonized cannabis as “a gateway drug.” Legalization even became the central theme of the campaign for Cynthia Nixon, his opponent in the 2018 Democratic governor’s primaries.
That all bodes well for the near future, but what does that mean today?
The bottom line is that recreational use is still illegal in New York City, but penalties aren’t as stiff as they used to be.
A Growing Trend
Events such as the quarterly Revel showcase, which focuses on topics related to innovation in the cannabis industry, help spotlight the opportunities that lie in legal cannabis. Past themes have included Cannabis + The Body, Cannabis + The Consumer, and most recently, Cannabis + Capital.
As one of the world’s economic strongholds, it makes sense that the business opportunities cannabis offers would be capturing the interest of New York City; in May, the city will play host to the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition.
The environment for cannabis is changing rapidly in New York City, and 2019 already holds big changes in terms of legalization. For now, visitors to the Big Apple should exercise caution in their public cannabis consumption.