It’s 4/20: Here’s what you need to know about the first legal marijuana celebration in NYC

A man smokes a hybrid strain joint of cannabis at his home in New York
For the first time, it’s legal to light up a marijuana joint on 4/20 in New York.
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Tuesday, April 20 (also known as 4/20), figures to be more lit than usual in New York City.

For decades, tokers reveling in the annual celebration of weed had to enjoy their joints behind closed doors — risking arrest and jail sentences if they were busted by police for carrying mere ounces of weed. But that all changed on March 31 of this year, when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

The law makes it legal for New Yorkers, aged 21 and older, to have up to 3 ounces of marijuana, or up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, in their possession. Marijuana users can also smoke a joint wherever tobacco smoking is permitted without fear of being ticketed or arrested.

Of course, the places where one can smoke either a cigarette or a joint are restricted by law. You can’t light up in public places such as parks, bars, restaurants or cafés, theaters and public transportation. Smoking marijuana while driving, or driving under the influence of marijuana, is also forbidden.

It’s legal, however, to smoke in private residences, in designated hotel rooms, or on sidewalks that are not within 15 feet from the entrance or exit to a health care facility. Smoking is also permitted at retail tobacco stores and tobacco or cigar bars.

Selling pot, however, remains outlawed as the state sets up the administrative system for regulating the sale, distribution and taxation of marijuana; that’s expected to come online in April 2022. The home growth of “the devil’s lettuce” also is not permitted for at least the next 18 months; once allowed, on or about October 2023, individuals can grow up to six marijuana plants.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act also seeks the automatic expungement of criminal records for up to 300,000 New Yorkers arrested and/or convicted on marijuana-related charges.