A hand holding a single marijuana leaf against a bright yellow background.
Photo: Olena Ruban/Getty Images

Yesterday, New York became the 16th state (plus Washington, D.C.) to legalize recreational marijuana. Aspects of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), as this development is officially known, took effect immediately, while other pieces of the legislation will take months to come into full effect. As of yesterday, for example, you can legally smoke weed on a grassy median in the middle of the street. You cannot yet launch your artisanal-pot-brownie business. Here is what you need to know.

Can I legally smoke marijuana in New York City? 
Yes. As of yesterday, adults 21 and over are allowed to have “up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational purposes or 24 grams of concentrated forms of the drug, such as oils.” You cannot smoke in schools, workplaces, or in cars, but otherwise, anywhere you’re allowed to smoke tobacco, you are now allowed to smoke pot. (This could get changed later.)

I cannot wait to legally spark up in a city park!
Well, no. Smoking tobacco isn’t allowed in city parks, so you can’t smoke weed there, either. However, you can smoke on sidewalks outside parks, in park parking lots, and on the medians of large city streets, according to the parks department.

I have to confess: As a law-abiding citizen, I’m new to this. How much is three ounces?
Based on a “rigorous statistical analysis” published a few years ago in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the “typical American joint” contains .32 grams of marijuana. A High Times survey, on the other hand, suggested it was more like .75 grams. (But, of course, the good folks at High Times are the varsity squad, so maybe they just go a bit harder than the marijuana everyman.) Either way, three ounces gets you more than a hundred — and maybe closer to 250 — joints.

Be right back, I’m going to go legally buy some recreational weed real quick.
Wait! While it is now legal to consume recreational marijuana in New York State, you cannot yet legally buy recreational marijuana in New York State, because there is still no way to legally sell recreational marijuana in New York State. That part is coming — it just hasn’t taken effect yet.

How will that work?
The rest of the law will roll out over the next 18 months or so, as the state figures out the “regulatory framework that will govern every aspect of a brand-new, highly regulated market.” Eventually, New York’s recreational-weed program will be run by two yet-to-be-formed bodies: a Cannabis Control Board, which will be in charge of writing the new regulations, and an Office of Cannabis Management, which will be in charge of implementing those rules. They’ll also be in charge of creating and allocating different kinds of marijuana business licences for all of New York State’s marijuana businesses.

For now, you can have marijuana, and you can smoke it in tobacco-friendly public places. And, good news for anyone who started a pandemic garden: Soon, you’ll also be able to grow your own personal supply at home — up to three mature and three immature plants per adult, with a max of 12 plants per household. Then, in theory, by the end of 2022, not only will you be able to legally buy weed, you’ll legally be able to have it delivered to your home. There will be recreational dispensaries, and also “lounge-like ‘consumption sites,’” where you’ll be able to have the full Amsterdam experience without leaving town.

Even then, it’ll take a little time for the legal weed market to ramp up. New York’s “pot czar” Norman Birenbaum told Business Insider he expects it will take “three to four years to create a market with the cultivation capacity and dispensary numbers to meet the demands of consumers.”

So what am I supposed to do now?
If you have to ask, you might just want to wait until it’s legal. But also, here are some tips.

Who’s going to get these licenses?
The law — which separates out different types of licences (processing, cultivation, distribution, etc.) and limits how many any one business can have — is designed to try to prevent a few major players from dominating the market. Half of the licenses are supposed to go to “social equity applicants,” a group including people from communities with disproportionately high rates of marijana enforcement (more than 94 percent of people arrested in NYC last year on marijuana charges were people of color), women- and minority-owned businesses, distressed farmers and service-disabled veterans, and people who either have a marijuana-related conviction, or a close relative with a marijuana-related conviction.

Speaking of! Anyone convicted of a marijuana-related offense that is now legal will see their records automatically expunged. And as Gothamist explains, if you were convicted of selling small amounts of weed — anything less than 25 grams — that conviction gets automatically expunged, too.