Haze about NYS Cannabis Laws and Health Effects of Cannabis Use

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has announced that licenses for recreational cannabis dispensaries will start to be processed for Western New York. Currently, there are no licensed dispensaries in Western New York, which means that none of the cannabis products being sold at current businesses have gone through New York testing requirements, where or how the product has been grown or processed, or percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the product contains. All licensed cannabis dispensaries will have a placard with a QR code that customers can scan to verify the business is licensed. OCM has a verification tool on their website that lists all New York licensed cannabis dispensaries, if a store is not on this list that means it is not a licensed dispensary.

Even though possession and use of cannabis has been legal for over a year in New York for adults 21 and older there are still several misunderstandings over what is legal and not legal.

  • It is legal for an adult 21+ to possess 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate.
  • It is legal for an adult 21+ to “share” cannabis with another adult 21+ under the legal limit, without compensation. It is illegal to distribute or sell cannabis without a license.
  • It is legal for adults to consume cannabis in private homes and places where tobacco can be smoked. Smoking cannabis is illegal in private businesses, in a vehicle, or any place tobacco cannot be smoked. In October of 2022, New York made all state parks and other public outdoor spaces smoke-free of cannabis and tobacco. 
  • It is illegal for driver or passengers in a vehicle driving or parked to be using cannabis.
  • It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.

These are just some of the more common questions or comments from the public pertaining to what is legal and illegal. For more information people can visit www.cannabis.ny.gov/adult-use .

Young people also have misconceptions about cannabis that adults need to help them understand, especially that legal does not mean safe. Science has shown that THC can affect the developing brain, which is not fully developed until age 25-26. The part of the brain that is responsible for making decisions (the prefrontal cortex) is one of the last parts of the brain that develops and is particularly impacted by cannabis use. Negative cognitive effects can include difficulty thinking and solving problems, problems with memory and learning, reduced coordination, difficulty maintaining attention, and problems with school and social life after consistent consumption.  Frequent cannabis use in youth can increase the risk of mental health issues, including depression, social anxiety, acute psychosis, and schizophrenia. Cannabis consumption, especially frequent (daily or near daily) consumption and consumption that begins at an early age has been associated with schizophrenia and psychosis. Studies have shown that smoking cannabis exposes the user to the same types of dangerous chemicals as smoking cigarettes. A recent study out of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center found that vaping cannabidiol (CBD) leads to more severe lung damage than vaping nicotine.

Parents and mentors: You can impact whether the young people in your life consumes cannabis. Start the conversation with them early and have it often. Conversations about substance use should not be one sixty-minute conversation, but sixty, one-minute conversations. Make sure they understand the consequences and the negative impact it can have on their growing, developing brain. Pre-teens, teens, and young people in their early 20s tend to seek out new experiences and engage in risky behaviors, like using cannabis.  For conversations resources visit www.talkitover.org .

Parents and community members can also follow PPAC Central on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to receive current information on resources, activities, and family events.

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