Since New York legalized marijuana and recreational cannabis for adult users over two years ago, many people assumed that the new legal market for marijuana would help to slowly eliminate the black market sale and distribution of the drug. However, with two years of hindsight, the market for legal cannabis has not done away with the illegal sale of the drug.
The unregulated sale of cannabis has continued to be an issue for the state, as unlicensed dispensaries continue to operate outside of the framework established by the legislature. This has prompted a new series of laws to be passed to crack down on the spread of these illicit distribution centers.
New York’s 2024 budget targets illegal dispensaries with new penalties
In early May of this year, New York released its 2024 budget proposal, which provides new authority to the agencies most closely involved with cannabis regulation, the Office of Cannabis Management and the Department of Taxation and Finance. These changes allow for them to levy civil penalties against unlicensed and unregulated dispensaries, and make the possession and sale of marijuana a misdemeanor.
What this means is that if someone sells cannabis where they are required to have a license or permit, then they are liable to face up to one year in jail. The goal of this regulatory change is not intended to target purchasers or even street dealers, but to bring unregulated cannabis storefronts in compliance with the state’s regulatory system of recreational marijuana.
Much of the push behind this new series of laws is intended to crack down not only on the unregulated sale of cannabis to adults but also on the illegal sale of cannabis to children, as well as other illicit activities that frequently occur at these unlicensed dispensaries. With fewer of these locations open, more people will be directed to the legal cannabis dispensaries throughout the state.
Does this mean that the sale of marijuana is criminal again?
The answer is not quite. It is still perfectly legal to sell recreational marijuana if the business that does so in accordance with the laws that were passed in 2021. These new laws passed this year are re-imposing criminal penalties for sales that happen at commercial storefronts that do not follow the 2021 laws.
Even if you own an unregulated cannabis dispensary, the primary enforcement of these laws is not intended to be incarceration, but fines of up to $20,000 every day in civil penalties.