For years, New York has tried to legalize marijuana in vain. However, on March 31, 2021, the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) became law. It legalizes the adult use of cannabis in the state, and a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) was created through the legislation. The office comprehensively regulates adult use, medical, and hemp cannabis.

However, some cannabis-use offenses could get you arrested despite the legalization laws. A Long Island criminal justice attorney explains what this legalization means and what to expect with the new law.

What Are the New York State Cannabis Laws?

Under state laws, it’s no longer a criminal offense to smoke cannabis. It’s also legal to possess limited amounts of marijuana. Article 221, which previously made the possession, use, and sale of marijuana illegal, is no longer effective. In its place is the NYS Penal Law Article 222.

Cannabis Adult Use Regulations

The law allows adults 21 years and older to:

  • Possess a maximum of three ounces of marijuana and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use
  • Smoke or vape marijuana where tobacco smoking is allowed, depending on the laws and rules private establishments like hotels and residences or businesses have made. 
  • Purchase cannabis products at only licensed retailers 
  • Grow three cannabis plants at home, and a maximum of six plants in a house with more than one adult 
  • Store up to five pounds of cannabis at home 

Limitations to Cannabis Adult Use

Adults may not:

  • Smoke or vape tobacco or cannabis in public spaces like beaches, parks, boardwalks, pedestrian plazas, and playgrounds 
  • Smoke or vape anywhere smoking is prohibited 
  • Possess or sell more than the amount allowed by law 
  • Drive while under impairment after using marijuana 
  • Smoke marijuana in workplaces, cars, or schools

However, a law enforcement officer isn’t allowed to use the smell of cannabis in public spaces to stop and search a pedestrian. If you’re arrested and charged for the above, it would be in your best interest to contact a Long Island drug possession attorney. A skilled can create a strong defense to protect you from hefty fines and consequences. 

What Are the Penalties for Smoking Marijuana in Public in New York?

The new cannabis laws in New York prohibit a person who smokes cannabis in a public place where it’s not permitted from facing civil penalties. However, they can get the following:

  • A fine of up to $25 
  • 20 hours of community service under a court order 

Having a criminal defense attorney in Long Island represent you during your trial can be in your best interest. They can create a solid defense to have the charges reduced or dropped. 

Can I Expunge My Previous Cannabis Criminal Record?

Under the new cannabis laws in New York, some marijuana possession records can be automatically expunged. The new regulations have expanded the list of cannabis crimes eligible for expungement, but some may require a motion of application for submission to the court. 

Once a previous cannabis conviction record has been expunged, your arrest, the trial, and the sentencing will become a thing of the past, like they never happened. Charges that have successfully been expunged:

  • Won’t appear in your criminal history background check 
  • Can’t be used against you when you apply for a student loan, housing, or employment 
  • Won’t be available to law enforcers unless when making an application for a gun license or a law enforcement job 
  • Won’t be listed on a school or job application that asks about your previous arrests or convictions 

Automatic Expunctions

Certain marijuana convictions and related offenses are now eligible for automatic expungement. That means you don’t need to file a motion or pay any fees for the process. They include:

  • Unlawful possession of Marihuana in the First and Second Degree 
  • Criminal possession of cannabis in the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Degree 
  • Unlawful cannabis sale 
  • Unlawful possession of marihuana 
  • Personal cultivation and home possession of marihuana
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the Fifth Degree 

If your cannabis convictions were only related to concentrated cannabis, then these offenses can be automatically expunged:

  • Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the Fifth and Seventh Degree
  • Loitering in the First Degree 

However, the court won’t send notices about expunged cases, but this information will be available at the District Attorney’s office, Division of Criminal Justice Services, and other law enforcement agencies. Your Long Island drug possession attorney can guide you on how to check if your conviction was expunged. 

What About Medical Cannabis in New York?

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), on January 24, 2022, approved an expansion of the medical cannabis program. The move would allow doctors to use medical cannabis in treating various conditions. Before the program’s implementation, doctors could only use medical marijuana for a limited number of medical conditions as allowed by statute. 

The move by OCM was part of the agency’s certification and registration system. The Cannabis Control Board made regulations to allow medical cannabis users to grow up to six plants for personal use. These changes were made possible by the new cannabis legalization law. 

However, only certified patients and caregivers registered with the OCM can grow medical cannabis securely within a private location. They also must not sell the cannabis they grow. The provision would help medical cannabis users have access to affordable medicine. 

An Experienced Drug Defense Attorney Representing You in Your Drug Crime Case

New York has new cannabis laws protecting cannabis users more than the previous law. Much of what was illegal in the past is now legal, and violations under the new law cannot earn your civil penalties. If you had been convicted of a cannabis-related crime under the previous cannabis laws, a marijuana crimes defense lawyer could help you check if you’re eligible for expungement. 

Our law firm has skilled and dedicated criminal defense attorneys who can help you in your case. We lend our clients a compassionate ear and allow them to tell their side of the story to help them create the best defense strategy. Our ultimate goal is to help them have their charges dismissed to protect their freedom and future. Talk to us today.