New York City legalized recreational cannabis use in the spring of 2021, and since then, stores and dispensaries have popped up all over. Even with the wave of new dispensaries, how do you know what weed is legal or where to buy it from an officially licensed store? Can you grow weed in your own home? Is there a difference between the legalities of medical and recreational marijuana?

As of 2023, the path toward NYC cannabis legalization and its effects have become much clearer. While there are still many steps that must be taken, NYC is determined to have the most diverse, equitable, and inclusive weed industry in the world. Nearly two years after recreational cannabis was legalized in NYC, people are finally understanding the basics—and all precious cannabis-related criminal records in New York have been expunged. In November of 2022, the city and state finally doled out official dispensary licenses, making your favorite corner store legal. But even with the change of laws, are you safe from being stopped for smoking weed? Can cannabis be sold by anyone?

Can cannabis be sold by anyone?

New York City and Cannabis: The Legalities

In the state of New York, anyone 21 and older can buy, sell, consume, and grow cannabis legally. There are some limits to recreational weed, however, but overall the legalization of recreational cannabis has made it a safer experience for everyone. Decriminalization creates a predictable experience, safer sales, better environments, and higher-quality products. 

The legalization of recreational cannabis has also created an influx of new jobs in New York City. There is a surplus of tax revenue and job revenue gleaned from recreational cannabis sales, which the city can use for things like infrastructure and education. Experts note that growers and farmers now have a primary source of income—growing cannabis can be an incredibly lucrative venture.

Is It Legal To Smoke Cannabis Anywhere In NYC?

Per New York City laws, any adult may smoke/vape cannabis wherever smoking tobacco is also allowed. This means that public spaces, workplaces, restaurants, and bars are smoke-free, so it’s a good idea to smoke or vape outside. Also in NYC, smoking recreational weed inside of autombiles is not legal, and outdoor dining areas in restaurants are off-limits as well.

As legal cannabis sales start, cities and towns across New York state are allowed to set up “consumption areas” where people can use cannabis at will. As of yet, it’s unclear if these consumption areas require specific issue permits or not, but many of these recreational laws will be up under the jurisdiction of these cities and towns.

Can I Carry As Much Weed As I Want?

Anyone under 21 cannot possess, sell, or consume cannabis. Anyone older than 21 is allowed to carry up to three ounces of cannabis on their person, and 24 grams of concentrate. This means you can go to and from the local dispensary without worrying about the legalities of being stopped on the street. 

Recreational cannabis stores are allowed to officially open in New York as of 2023, but not everyone has a license as of yet. Local dispensaries, which are places where weed can be bought legally, are expected to open in the beginning months of 2023.

Recreational cannabis stores

Do I Need A Card?

Anyone 21 years of age or older can purchase recreational cannabis from a dispensary without a medical card. This makes it much easier for the citizens of New York to buy and consume cannabis.

What About Edibles?

Edibles are also legal in New York and follow the same rules and guidelines as other recreational cannabis.

Dispensaries: What You Need To Know

When Will My Local Dispensary Open?

You will have to consult with your local dispensary to figure out when it’s going to open, as dates are subject to change. Official licenses have been going out since the beginning of 2023, and many new stores and shops will be open by the spring of 2023.

Is My Local Dispensary Legally Operating?

Per city laws, legal dispensaries will have a visible Dispensary Verification Tool posted in the store windows for consumers to see. It’s essentially a QR code that can be examined. You might notice some of the dispensaries and shops you visit will shut down in the next six months, especially if they’ve been operating illegally. NYC will see about 150 licenses distributed in 2023, against 900 applications.

How Do I Find A Dispensary?

In the coming months, there will be aggressive ad campaigns and a city map showing people where to locate legal cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

How do I find a dispensary

Recreational Cannabis Products

There are many different things to look for in a cannabis product, and if you’re purchasing cannabis for the first time you might want to be aware of a few things. Products sold in legal dispensaries are going to be of the highest quality and scrutinized for personal use before they ever reach you.

What Do I Look For In A Cannabis Product?

Legalized cannabis is a controlled substance, meaning that it goes through a rigorous series of checks before it reaches the consumer. Authentic brands are tested before the dispensary acquires them, but the best way to keep yourself safe with any cannabis product is to seek out information. The more information available for any given product, the better. Consumers should be able to curate their own recreational cannabis experience without worrying about the safety of a product, and legal brands have to meet a bar that illicit sellers don’t need to care about.

What Makes Legal Cannabis Stand Out?

Legal cannabis products in NYC will feature a universal symbol that differentiates them from illegal items. In 2023, NYC will release an education campaign explaining the benefits of purchasing legal cannabis called Why Buy Legal New York. By following this campaign and its guidelines, first-time cannabis users can be sure that the products they purchase are the real deal. Just like the QR code in the windows of legal dispensaries, products will also feature a QR code that can be scanned for information. 

Is It Easy To Open A Dispensary In NYC?

First, a recreational dispensary in NYC must obtain a CUARD by paying a $2,000 fee. Applicants must meet qualifying business criteria or nonprofit criteria. After application, the state decides if the business meets the standards of a dispensary, and chooses whether or not to award a license. While there are 150 CUARD permits going out between 2022 and 2023, the new year will see greater industry growth.

Can I Get Involved In The Industry?

NYC’s newly-regulated cannabis industry creates jobs at both the retail and production level. Farmers can grow cannabis, tech and industry folks can find new ways to enter the industry, and many other job creators will support the cannabis industry as it’s being built from the inside and out. If you’re looking for a job in the cannabis industry in NYC, now is the time.