The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) S854 / A 1248 passed in the Senate and Assembly the evening of March 30, 2021 and signed into legislation by Governor Cuomo the next day, March 31, 2021. 

Here’s worker co-op High Mi Madre’s take on what this means for BIPOC communities &  worker co-ops.


*New Yorkers are able to carry less than 3 oz of marijuana until the legislation phases into effect in 2022. In possession of 3 oz – 1 lb of marijuana or growing before the legislation goes into effect is a violation and subject to a $100 fine. 

*MRTA legalizes adult-use marijuana making it legal to smoke in all spaces that you can smoke tobacco in NY; police officers can no longer use the smell of marijuana as probable cause, and when the law goes into effect you can have up to 5 pounds of marijuana and 6 plants per adult in your home. 

*Advocates ensured the bill passed with auto-expungement, homegrown, and remedies to collateral consequences in family, housing, and immigration cases. 

*Parents no longer have their children removed from their custody, or adoption prevented for marijuana. 

*Immigrants are no longer deported for marijuana. 

*You can no longer be evicted from your home because of marijuana, unless you live in NYCHA or other federally subsidized housing, you should verify if your personal residence is eligible with an attorney as the law phases out.

When I was younger I always said marijuana would be legalized by 2020 – we were one year off. We may have great wins in this legislation including 10 licenses, including a cooperative license to cultivate, process, and manufacture. However, co-ops can not own a dispensary or social consumption lounge license. If you acquire a dispensary license, you can not obtain any of the other licenses, but can have 3 dispensary locations. We advocated for vertical integration for coops- from seed to sale – but it was not included in the bill. Sales are expected to begin in 18-24 months.The bill is still being read over and analyzed; however these are highlights from the legislation. Shout out to the attorneys and advocates at CUNY Law and Start Smart coalition for the thorough breakdown! 

Our work only begins here; there is much advocacy work to be done to ensure there is full participation and access for co-ops, so that equity and legacy coops can enter the legal market and compete with other license holders. From what we’ve seen, the best way to ensure fair and equitable access is to follow the lead of Cambridge, Massachusetts and create a moratorium on licensing for equity and legacy applicants. Shout out to Shanel Lindsay and Shaleen Title for the background and explanation of the events that occurred with exclusivity licensing in Massachusetts. 

The city of Cambridge established a moratorium on licensing for economic empowerment applicants which we can look to and use as an example for what is possible in NY. Thanks to an amazing presentation by Northeastern University Law Students, this proves there are possibilities of creative ways to use our constitution to support marijuana consumers and coops in our regulatory system and implementation of the legislation. 

As we build toward abolitionist futures, the legalization of marijuana is not enough to ensure our autonomy, dignity, and needs for healthcare are met. We must fight for the end of the War on Drugs that commits violence against our communities, intentionally extracts wealth and actively seeks to create instability in our lives through epistemic racism to prevent BIPOC folks from thriving. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Still I rise.” We will be joining the efforts of Drug Policy Alliance in fighting for the end of the Drug War in NYC and beyond and are supporting sealing and expungement efforts in New York to ensure all folks affected by the prison industrial complex are able to fully regain autonomy and agency over their lives. 

Ashe. ¡Pa’lante, Siempre, Pa’lante!

About High Mi Madre

High Mi Madre is a womyn and femme of Color marijuana cooperative. Our mission is to support POC in entering the legal marijuana industry and direct the economic benefits of the marijuana industry into our communities that have been targeted and devastated by the Drug War. 

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and our National Expungement Week NYC Instagram for upcoming events on marijuana, how you can stay connected with our work, and get involved in advocacy for regulations that prioritizes those most harmed by marijuana prohibition, consumers, and coops. 

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