Why NY is in a legal marijuana sales limbo

New York legalized marijuana with much fanfare in fall 2021. And yet, the state remains in an in-between period — cannabis is legal for adult use but you can't legally buy it anywhere.

And you probably won't be able to until 2023 or maybe even 2024, said Michael McQueeny, an attorney and marijuana legislation expert.

"The Legislature has already passed a law saying you can sell it," he said. "The problem is you can only start selling it once the regulations governing how those sales look and feel get implemented.

McQueeny said those regulations are a long way off.

The state's Office of Cannabis Management is currently having what it is calling cannabis conversations via Zoom across the state to update the public about the status of legalized adult-use cannabis. 

Right now in New York, you can't legally purchase cannabis anywhere but possession up to a certain amount is no longer a crime. That can be confusing to consumers and potential sellers. 

What is the holdup? The state is still working out the legal rules and regulations.

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Loose buds of dried marijuana

Loose marijuana. (DEA file photo)

"The regulations are, how is a dispensary going to operate? What are the rules governing how the cannabis flower is safely cultivated?" McQueeny said. "What are the rules governing how is cannabis going to be shipped all around the state and who actually is going to do it?"

So far, about 34% of towns in the state have opted out of allowing cannabis businesses.  

But McQueeny said that is not such a big deal.

"Those 34% of towns that opted out only really have a population of about 118,000," he said.      

Another very important regulation that the state is grappling with is connected to cannabis use and driving. What do police do if they stop someone who is driving and might be high? How do they detect it? How do they calculate it? And how high is too high?

Rule for Consumers

"Adults 21 years of age or older will be allowed to buy and possess up to three ounces of cannabis flower and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis (oils, tincture, edibles, vapes, etc.). You will be able to buy cannabis only at a state licensed dispensary. You must present a valid ID proving you’re 21 or older. Cannabis at home should be stored securely and kept away from individuals under 21." —Office of Cannabis Management

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