N.Y. Today: Legal Cannabis, Now and Later

What you need to know for Thursday.

What Will Legal Cannabis Look Like in New York?

Author Headshot

By Daniel E. Slotnik

Metro Reporter

It's Thursday.

Weather: Early rain with scattered showers through the day. High around 50. Strong winds.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended today for Holy Thursday, tomorrow for Good Friday and over the weekend for Passover.


Hans Pennink/Associated Press

Pot enthusiasts, rejoice: New York has officially legalized the use of recreational marijuana.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday that made New York the latest state to legalize recreational weed, positioning it to quickly become one of the largest legal cannabis markets in the nation.


The new law ends years of failed attempts to make marijuana legal in the state. It includes provisions to reinvest millions of dollars of tax revenue from selling cannabis into minority communities that were devastated by the war on drugs.

Here's what you need to know:

What is now legal

Individuals are now allowed to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational use, or 24 grams of concentrated forms of the drug, like oils.


New Yorkers are permitted to smoke marijuana wherever smoking tobacco is allowed, though localities and a new state agency could restrict where it can be smoked in public. It is still illegal to smoke weed in schools, workplaces or a car, and in New York City it will be banned in parks, beaches, boardwalks, pedestrian plazas and playgrounds, all places where tobacco smoking is forbidden.

What will eventually be legal

Over the coming months, more changes will go into effect.

People will eventually be able to use marijuana at "consumption sites," have the drug delivered to their homes and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

Dispensaries won't open until more than a year from now, and localities could opt out of allowing them. (The New York Post reported Wednesday that several mayors on Long Island have already said that they planned to forbid the sale of marijuana in their communities.)

Why this took so long

The Democratic Party had made legalizing marijuana an annual priority since taking control of the Legislature in 2018, but the efforts fell apart each year, usually because of disagreements with Mr. Cuomo.

But this year the governor, dogged by calls to resign from members of his party following multiple sexual harassment allegations, made several concessions to push the bill over the line and secure a policy win.

"This is a historic day in New York, one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State's economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits," Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

From The Times

The Mini Crossword: Here is today's puzzle.

What we're reading

The federal Department of Transportation is allowing the city to move forward with its congestion pricing plan. [CBS New York]

The Parks Department insisted that it was not planning to permanently remove all of the concrete animal sculptures that adorn city playgrounds. [Gothamist]

An Emmy-winning set designer who had been missing for months was found dead under debris in her home in Queens. [Daily News]

If you've found this newsletter helpful, please consider subscribing to The New York Times — with this special offer. Your support makes our work possible.

And finally: The pandemic brings a flood of cargo to city ports

There were living-room sets from Bob's Discount Furniture for families busy redecorating; kitchen appliances for new home buyers; espresso machines for coffee lovers who became their own baristas; and cases of sparkling wines from France, Spain and Italy for those who drank more when they could afford to indulge.

Those are just some of the items that have filled stacks of cargo containers inundating the Port of New York and New Jersey, a sprawling network of docks, terminals and open storage areas that span a half-dozen sites, since the start of the pandemic, when consumers turned to shipping for many items to help round out their newly homebound lifestyles.

"Never before have we had anything like that," said Bethann Rooney, the deputy director of port operations. "The cargo was coming fast and furious into the country."

The port, which is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, saw cargo volumes up to 23 percent higher each month from August through December 2020, compared with the same months in 2019.

And the stuff just keeps coming. There was no post-holiday lull this winter as cargo volume in January rose 17 percent compared with the previous year. In February, it was up 7 percent, a new high for that month.

The spike in shipping has turned out to be a bright spot for the Port Authority: The port is the only part of the agency's wide-ranging portfolio that has thrived during the pandemic.

But the soaring cargo volumes have created more traffic and congestion at the port and stretched equipment and supplies. And there is no indication of when, or if, the pace of deliveries will slacken.

"We're operating right now at the breaking point," Ms. Rooney said. "This is going to be our normal at least for the first half of the year, and that's as far as anyone is willing to predict at this point."

It's Thursday — do some shopping.

Metropolitan Diary: Ringside

Dear Diary:

The Ringling Bros. circus was at Madison Square Garden, but every performance was sold out. I was 12 at the time, my sister was 5 and my parents owned a kosher delicatessen restaurant in Brooklyn.

At dinner one Friday, my father said we would be going to the circus the following Tuesday.

When Tuesday came, we took the subway into Manhattan. I noticed that my father was carrying a package. I asked him what it was.

"It's not important," he said.

Madison Square Garden was at West 50th Street and Eighth Avenue then. We exited the subway and walked to the stage door. My father spoke to a security guard.

About 10 minutes later, a man came to the door and my father followed him inside. Five minutes after that, my father and the man returned and we followed them back inside. My father no longer had the package.

An usher gave us seat cushions, and we were told to sit on the steps beside the first two rows at ringside. The man who had led us in told the usher not to bother us. We were his special guests.

On the way home, my mother asked my father what was in the package. He said that two weeks earlier, while speaking to a customer, he had mentioned that the circus was sold out.

The customer had said he had a friend who was a manager at Madison Square Garden, and that he would speak with him.

About a week later, the customer told my father that he had spoken with his friend and had been able to get us in to see the circus at no cost, but that the man wanted a special favor.

What was it? my father asked.

"A 10-pound salami," the customer replied.

— Evelyn Oberstein

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