Where New York (And The Rest Of The Northeast) Stands On Marijuana

A state-by-state look at where the substance is legal for medical use, and which regional states crack down on weed the hardest.


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Marijuana policy has come a long way in recent years, for better or worse. Colorado, Washington State, Alaska, and Oregon have voted to legalize marijuana by taxing and regulating it as a regular product on the market, and Washington, DC, has overhauled its policies to legalize possession and cultivation of small amounts. According to a recent Gallup poll on marijuana policy, 51% of Americans are in favor of full legalization on the federal level. Somewhat unsurprisingly, those who approved of legalization were concentrated in blue states and other liberal hubs, but the future of these policies remains uncertain, as marijuana itself remains a heated issue in elections.

Marijuana policy in New York, the 23rd state to legalize the drug for medical use, has become an especially hot-button issue as Governor Andrew Cuomo has reiterated several times his opposition to Colorado-style legalization due to his belief it's a gateway drug. The New York Department of Health recently finalized its medical marijuana program, which makes the drug accessible to patients with one or more of ten conditions: cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord nerve damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, and Huntington's disease. Though some advocates expressed displeasure that the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed excluded conditions like PTSD, the regulations allow the health department commissioner to add to the list. State Senator Diane Savino, a proponent of robust medical marijuana legalization, went as far as to call Cuomo's proposal “unworkable,” and unlikely to win approval from the federal government. 

According to an August Quinnipiac poll, only 19% of New Yorkers believe marijuana should not be legal, despite only 35% surveyed saying they want marijuana legalized for personal use.

Our own county executive, Rob Astorino, is one of a growing number of politicians who admit to using marijuana in younger years. While Astorino is not in favor of full legalization, he shares the opinion with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that incarceration of low-level marijuana offenders is unjust.

While opinions on marijuana policy are kind of a mixed bag in the traditionally blue Northeast, there is a high concentration of states that have decriminalized small possession. Here’s a short guide using data from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws:

Maine

Possession of less than 2.5 oz. and paraphernalia is decriminalized; max fine is $600 for first offenses.

Use for medical purposes is legal.

No mandatory minimum sentences for criminal marijuana offenders.

Massachusetts

Possession of 1 oz. or less is decriminalized; max fine is $100 for first offenses.

Use for medical purposes is legal.

Mandatory minimum sentences for criminal marijuana offenders are in effect.

Connecticut

Possession of less than 4 oz. is decriminalized; max fine is $2,000 for first offenses.

Use for medical purposes is legal.

Mandatory minimum sentences for criminal marijuana offenders are in effect.

Vermont

Possession by persons 21 and older of less than 1 oz. and paraphernalia is decriminalized; max fine is $500 for first offenses.

Use for medical purposes is legal.

No mandatory minimum sentences; conditional release policy in effect.

New Hampshire

Possession of any amount is a criminal misdemeanor.

Use for medical purposes is legal.

No mandatory minimum sentences.

Rhode Island

Possession of less than 1 oz. is decriminalized; max fine is $150 for first offenses.

Use for medical purposes is legal.

Mandatory minimum sentences for criminal marijuana offenders are in effect.

New York

Possession of less than 25g is decriminalized; max fine is $100 for first offenses.

Use for medical purposes is legal; under Cuomo's proposal smoking it will remain illegal, as will consumption of any kind in a public space.

Mandatory minimum sentences for criminal marijuana offenders are in effect.

Pennsylvania

City of Philadelphia has decriminalized possession of up to 1 oz.; max fine is $25 for first offenses.

Possession of any amount of marijuana or paraphernalia is a criminal misdemeanor in the rest of the state.

Use for medical purposes is illegal.

Mandatory minimum sentences and conditional release policies are in effect.

New Jersey

Possession of any amount is a criminal offense; 50g or less is a “disorderly person” penalty and possession of more is a felony.

Use for medical purposes is legal.

Mandatory minimum sentences for criminal marijuana offenders are in effect.

Ryan Pihota contributed to the reporting for this article

 

 

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