Cannabis (also known as marijuana) is the second-most commonly used recreational drug in NYC, after alcohol. It can be smoked, vaped or ingested as a food or beverage (edibles), producing reactions such as a relaxed, euphoric feeling, anxiety and an increased heart rate.
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of compounds, including THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is a psychoactive compound that makes people feel high. Different forms of cannabis contain different amounts of THC and produce different effects. The more THC that a cannabis product contains, the stronger the effect.
Concentrates, such as dabs, wax and oil, may have much higher amounts of THC — 40% to 90% — than other forms of cannabis, which are usually about 20% THC. Concentrates can cause a faster, more intense effect than other forms of cannabis and may lead to an increased health risk. Cannabis added into food and beverages has a delayed and longer-lasting effect than smoked or vaped cannabis.
A person’s reaction to cannabis also may be affected by their age, height, weight, health status, medications taken, tolerance and what other food, liquids and drugs they have consumed that day.
It is now legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use in New York. Adults may smoke or vape cannabis wherever smoking tobacco is allowed under the smoke-free air laws, with a few exceptions.
Cannabis use is not allowed in motor vehicles (even if they are parked) or in outdoor dining areas at restaurants. Smoking or vaping cannabis in prohibited areas may result in a civil summons and fine.
It is still against the law for people younger than 21 years old to possess, sell or use any amount of cannabis. Also, no one may legally possess more than three ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, sell any amount without a license, or drive while under the influence or impaired by cannabis.
The legal status of cannabis has made the study of health effects difficult. As more states legalize cannabis for adult use and medicinal use, there has been some increase in research on the benefits and risks of cannabis. However, the study of cannabis remains restricted by its classification as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government.
The below information is based on studies that have provided strong evidence of how cannabis can impact health. However, at this time, more information is needed to better understand the health risks and benefits of consuming cannabis.
Cannabis has been shown to be helpful for some conditions:
Some people may experience immediate, unwanted reactions after taking cannabis. These effects can be due to taking a type or amount of cannabis they are not used to, or to taking multiple doses in a short time.
These reactions, which typically go away after the cannabis wears off, can include:
Research has shown links between cannabis and some health risks:
Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains tar and cancer-causing chemicals. Cannabis aerosols can also contain harmful chemicals. Smoking cannabis with tobacco may have additional risks. Secondhand cannabis or tobacco smoke can also be harmful to you and those around you.
Here are some tips to help you use cannabis more safely:
Medical cannabis has been legally available to New Yorkers through the State’s medical marijuana program since 2014.
People may be eligible to use medical cannabis to treat their health condition if a state-registered health care provider certifies that medical cannabis is clinically appropriate. Patients must also register with the state to be able to purchase medical cannabis.
The new law expands the eligibility of medical cannabis, increases the number of caregivers allowed per patient, allows prescriptions for as many as 60 days (up from 30) and allows smokable cannabis to be purchased in medical cannabis dispensaries.
Once regulations are finalized, certified medical cannabis program patients will also be able to grow up to six plants at a time at home.
For more information about whether medical cannabis could help you, talk to your health care provider.
Under federal law, cannabis possession and use in all forms remains illegal. There are a few FDA-approved prescription medications that contain cannabis-derived products, such as CBD, or are made with synthetic products related to cannabis.
For more information on the federal law, visit the FDA webpage on cannabis and cannabis-derived products.
CBD is one of the compounds of the cannabis plant and a chemical byproduct of industrial hemp. Unlike THC, CBD does not induce a high or cause impairment. People use CBD for different reasons, but there is not strong evidence of its health effects.
CBD products that have less than .3% THC are legal in the U.S. However, CBD has not been approved for use in foods and beverages by the FDA, so it is unlawful in NYC to sell food or drinks containing CBD. The Health Department may issue violations to food service establishments and retailers that offer food or drink containing CBD.
If you are a food service operator, learn more about the laws on CBD sales.