PSA: New York bans smoking in public parks and on beaches

Want to smoke at your favorite New York park or beach? Sorry friend, those days are over.

In July, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed new legislation banning smoking cannabis and tobacco on nearly all state “beaches, boardwalks, marinas, playgrounds, recreation centers and group camps.”

The cost of getting caught? A civil fine of $50.

Last year, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) into law. For the first time in the US, the framework law legalized public consumption nationwide. However, the new ban takes the wind out of the sails of locals and tourists alike, who were excited to take advantage of the lax policy.

“New Yorkers are confused and upset as many believed that once the MRTA passed, they would be safe to use outdoors,” Grizzly Bocourt, executive director of Cannaware and founder of New York Cannabis United, told Leafly.

“I believe this debate will not be resolved until more is done to educate consumers about where smoking is banned and legal. [in order to] Protect New Yorkers who don’t have access to private spaces,” Bocourt added.

Why does NY have to be tough?

Photo of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul with a microphoneNew York Gov. Kathy Hochul doesn’t want New Yorkers to smoke in public parks anymore. (AP Photo/Seth Little)

In a press release announcing the ban, Gov. Hochul made no mention of cannabis. Instead, she emphasizes the health risks of passive smoking and the environmental impact of cigarette butts.

“Smoking is a dangerous habit that affects not only the smoker but everyone around them, including families and children who enjoy our state’s great public spaces,” Gov. Hochul said in the statement. “I’m proud to be signing this law, which protects the health of New Yorkers and helps reduce litter in public parks and beaches across the state.”

The press release notes that “cigarette butts pose a major environmental hazard due to the non-biodegradable filters that are discarded.” It is noted that they are the “leading object” found in clean-up projects.

It also notes that many municipalities already have a similar ban in place: the new law tightens this policy statewide.

However, the bill includes a few exceptions: The Adirondacks and Catskills regions remain kosher for public consumption, as do “parking lots, sidewalks adjacent to parks, and non-parking areas.”

In 2023, I think events like this year’s epic 4/20 Smokeout in Washington Square Park (which Leafly’s own Mikhail Harrison documented this year) will need to take place on the sidewalks surrounding the park.

Sounds… a little less epic.

Related

Views from NYC’s 420 weekend melting pot

NYC Mayor Adams (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP)“Have fun, light up, but most importantly, spend some money,” Mayor Adams said at a cannabis conference earlier this year. The mayor claims he will be lax on cannabis regulation for now, but officials from the New York City Senate and Office of Cannabis Management have been more aggressive. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP)

The park and beach ban marks another twist in New York’s dramatic legal cannabis journey.

Most recently this summer, the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Management sparked confusion and anger when it sent cease-and-desist letters to dozens of gray-zone stores across the state. NYC Mayor Eric Adams (D) further complicated matters when he told residents not to break a sweat.

And while many advocates have welcomed the state’s plan to allocate $200 million to help marginalized entrepreneurs with the real estate costs of opening legal pot shops, others wish the money would be used elsewhere.

One final note: while the new ban thwarts consumers’ dreams of enjoying cannabis statewide, New York’s politics still remain some of the most relaxed in the country.

The state’s first legal stores are slated to open later this year. Hopefully the public consumption lounges aren’t far behind.

In the meantime, New York residents and visitors alike, enjoy hitting your blunt on the sidewalk next to your favorite park.

Max Savage Levenson

Max Savage Levenson probably has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any author on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled people. He is the co-host of the Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.

Check out Max Savage Levenson’s articles

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