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When Will New York State Legalize Marijuana?


new york marijuana decriminalization assemblyI get asked all the time when I think ‘fill in the blank’ state will legalize marijuana. Rather than put everything into one article, I figured I’d address the states that I get asked about the most in its own article. I get asked all the time what I think about New York’s chances of legalizing marijuana, which is understandable because New York is such a large state, and also since New York recently legalized medical marijuana.

New York is not going to be an easy state to get reform passed compared to other states for one very important reason – New York does not have a citizen initiative process. Whereas states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska allow citizens to gather signatures to qualify something for the ballot, New York does not have such a process. The only ways that New York will legalize marijuana is through the New York Legislature, or when marijuana is legalized at the federal level.

So, just as I stated in my article about Texas, to answer the question ‘when will New York legalize marijuana?’ I pose the question ‘how marijuana friendly is the New York Legislature?’ The effort to legalize medical marijuana was not easy in New York State. It took a tremendous amount of pressure from activists, patients, and organizations to get medical marijuana passed in New York, and the version of medical marijuana that was passed left a lot to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, it was better than nothing, but it’s a far cry from the medical marijuana programs in other states like Colorado and Oregon.

If New York legalizes marijuana, and that’s a big if, what would it look like? According to New York’s medical marijuana law, patients can’t even smoke marijuana, they have to vaporize it. If New York legalized recreational marijuana, should we assume that smoking recreational marijuana would also be banned? This is one of many questions that will only be answered if/when New York legalizes marijuana.

New York has some of the most racially biased marijuana arrest rates in the country. If/when New York legalizes marijuana, it will be one of the biggest dominos to fall, and would speed up the process of federal legalization more than just about any other state. However, that might be a ways off. I think that New York has a great chance of legalizing recreational marijuana in some form by the end of 2016 via it’s legislature, but I think it’s more realistic that New York will legalize recreational marijuana in 2017/2018 after many other states legalize via the initiative process during the 2016 Election. There of course is the chance that federal legalization occurs around that same time, which would acheive the same effect for New Yorkers. Want to legalize marijuana in New York? Contact your legislator early and often!


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Johnny Green


  1. My understanding is, back when people were trying to end the last prohibitive debacle- alcohol, when NY stopped enforcement the whole house of cards fell.
    We’ll be rolling this election day as Washington, DC legalizes. Everyone will hear that message.

  2. Pussey Dennison on

    They won’t do a thing in NY State. They’re so corrupt here, lobbyists, career politicians who ignore issues except ones on their agendas. I can go on and on. Exactly who are they to dictate what we consume? It’s disgraceful. A recreational industry could help create jobs and ease the state’s economy. But why should they help the poor or those who aren’t able to find jobs? They never do. Time and time again, they consistently ignore the voice of the people in this state (as well as the federal but I’m talking about this corrupt failure of a state). One of the problems in this state is that the majority who do support it….Don’t Ever Speak Up. Voting, protesting, they don’t stand up for themselves. Ashamed of this country, its rulers and its people.

  3. That’s an interesting point you make about DC. I’ve never thought about it (I don’t live in NY–or even in the US), but it makes sense. We should be able to test your idea after November.

  4. Elect a president who promises to issue an executive order legalizing marijuana on day one. Don’t take a line of BS like Hillary Clinton and her wait another 75 years and see approach to marijuana legalization.

  5. I kind of agree with Ron. I do think some other east coast states will legalize first and put pressure on New York to keep up. But lately I’ve been thinking that if Oregon and Alaska and Washington DC legalize, and then more in 2016, it might just be full legalization nationwide after that, because why bother with prohibition at that point? That’s my hopeful view of it as a New Yorker. I think Washington DC legalizing will be much more important for NY than Oregon (west coast) and Alaska (far away).

  6. Maybe the strategy would be for the New England states to legalize first. Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine seem much more legalization friendly. Once some (hopefully all) of them legalize and all that money is leaving NY then Duomo and company will get off their sorry duffs and do something.

  7. Christopher krbec on

    The east coast is missing out on billions of dollars that could be used to bring our country out of its debt and not to mention lowering crime rate. We definitely need this to be legal for our country to grow to its fullest extent.

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