This Friday, the New York State Fair will be opening for the first time since the pandemic began. And in an even more historic first, attendees will be able to spark up a fat joint before they hop on the Tilt-A-Whirl.
A spokesperson for the Fairgrounds confirmed on Monday that fairgoers will legally be able to smoke cannabis in the fair's public outdoor spaces. This sudden policy change is a direct result of New York's new adult-use law, which allows cannabis users to light up anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed – even on the streets of New York City.
That said, there are still a few restrictions on exactly where you can smoke weed. According to the Fairgrounds' formal smoking policy, tobacco and cannabis smoking are prohibited “in any building or under cover; in any of the picnic areas; within the confines of Kiddieland; the Midway; the grassy area of Chevy Court; at the Veterans and 9/11 Memorials; or within the State Park at the Fair.”
“State law allows marijuana use anywhere tobacco use is permitted,” said Dave Bullard, a spokesperson for the Fair, to Marijuana Moment. “Smoking is not permitted in Fairgrounds buildings or in the open concert venues at Chevy Court and Chevy Park but is allowed elsewhere outdoors.” Bullard also asked anyone who is smoking weed at the fair “to be considerate of others around them.”
Under New York's adult-use law, it is legal for adults over 21 to possess up to 3 ounces of weed or 24 grams of concentrate, which is definitely enough to keep anyone lifted for a day at the fair. But even though it's legal to possess weed, it's still not legal to grow or buy it. Legal sales are not expected to begin until late next year, and home cultivation will not be authorized until regulators issue the necessary guidelines for these grows.
Unfortunately, the state has already experienced some serious delays in setting up its regulatory board, so it's hard to predict when officials will actually get around to licensing legal weed retailers and producers. There is a serious financial incentive to implementing these rules sooner rather than later, though. State officials have estimated that the Empire State could be collecting nearly $250 million in annual weed tax revenue once sales are in full swing.
New York is one of the few adult-use states that does not prohibit public cannabis use outright. In California and most other legal-weed states, it is still illegal to smoke marijuana outdoors. And since most landlords and hotels prohibit indoor smoking, millions of renters and tourists are forced to break the law to smoke weed that they legally bought.
Bans against public pot smoking have inspired a new trend of “420-friendly” hotels and vacation rentals, but these are certainly far more expensive than just lighting up a joint while lying in the grass. A growing number of cities, from Washington DC to Madison, Wisconsin, have decriminalized public weed smoking, but this is another half-measure that continues to target lower-income people with fines while allowing wealthier people to freely light up in the comfort of their homes.