Is Weed Legal in New York? Here's How You Could Still Be at Risk of Arrest

Don't toke up just yet.

If the news that New York City is loosening its enforcement policy on cannabis has you considering toking up in public, hold up. Recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state. If a cop catches you, you’re much, much less likely to get arrested — but there’s still a chance you could be.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Policy on Smoking in Public

For starters, the new policy follows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s order to end arrests for public smoking back in May. As the NYPD and de Blasio looked to lower the number of arrests made for low-level marijuana charges, the official stance has defaulted mainly to summonses. In the past, an arrest for publicly smoking pot could land you in jail. Under the new policy, offenders will instead receive get a $100 fine.

De Blasio thinks this could cut down up to 10,000 arrests next year alone, arrests that disproportionately affect people of color in the city. To review, possession of weed has been decriminalized, meaning it’s still illegal, but small amounts of cannabis on your person is considered a violation, not a crime. And medical marijuana is legal for those prescribed it, but only in non-smokable forms.

Conditions for Arrest

In addition to getting served a summons, there are still a few ways officers could arrest you if they find you smoking marijuana in public. If you’re on probation or parole, if there’s a criminal warrant out for your arrest already, if you’re not carrying a valid government-issued ID, if you have a recorded recent history of violence, or if you pose a threat to public safety, you could be fingerprinted, arrested on the spot, and given a court date.

That last condition is particularly one to watch out for, because it includes toking up while you’re driving. But these changes are occurring simultaneously with a greater push for legalization in the state of New York. Also yesterday, it was announced that the New York State Health Commission will officially advise Governor Andrew Cuomo to legalize cannabis for recreational usage. Changes won’t come until at least 2019, but it definitely seems like legal weed is in the Empire State’s near future.

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