New York City Marijuana Legal Policy

Table of Contents


In the article “Marijuana in New York: Here’s How the Laws Are Changing” Wolfe (2018) describes the changes in New York (NY) legal policies concerning marijuana use. According to the author, the NY government has made another step towards legalizing recreational marijuana by changing the statutory penalty for smoking cannabis in public from arrests to criminal court summonses (Wolfe, 2018). In short, starting September 1, 2018, NY Police Department (NYPD) has begun issuing tickets to citizens smoking marijuana to free up the police resources.

The Present State of Marijuana Law

Despite the recent change in the NY laws reviewed in the article, consuming and possessing marijuana in most cases is still illegal. The policy alternation concerns only the instances where people are caught smoking cannabis in public places. In such cases, citizens will be issued criminal court summonses instead of being arrested if they do not have an open arrest warrant, if they have not been convicted in a crime, and are not considered a threat to the public (Wolfe, 2018). The tickets will oblige the violators to show up in court where the judge will decide on the fine and seal the summon (Wolfe, 2018).

At the same time, possessing and consuming medical cannabis remains legal with present limitations and restrictions. According to Wolfe (2018), only 12 conditions qualify for medical marijuana use and 21 active dispensaries in the state. However, people willing to join the program can be certified only by a registered practitioner such as a doctor, a physician assistant, or a nurse practitioner (Wolfe, 2018). In brief, while being a step toward legalizing recreational marijuana, the change in law does not provide additional rights and only changes the legal penalties in specific occurrences in New York City.

The Rationale for the Change

The central reason for the government reviewing its position towards prosecuting people smoking marijuana in public is ethical and economical. According to Wolfe (2018), the vast majority of arrests happen in neighborhoods with more African American residents. Stopping prosecution will decrease racial disparities that exist in the city’s marijuana arrests (Wolfe, 2018). Moreover, the change in the law can free up police resources and lower the financial burden associated with fighting against illegal cannabis use. At the same time, the Health Department has recommended “to allow adults to legally consume marijuana, and impose taxes at about 7 to 10 percent” (Wolfe, 2018, para. 12). The policy alternation can help to decrease the arrest count in NY and enable the NYPD to focus their attention on other crucial matters.


While the change in law does not grant any more freedom in cannabis use, it is still a step towards legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. According to Wolfe (2018), even Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo states that it is only a matter of time when the NY government will make the decision. In conclusion, issuing tickets to people smoking marijuana in public places will free up police resources and will decrease racial disparities.


Wolfe, J. (2018). . The New York Times. Web.

Managing Organizational Change. Response

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