Health

Now That New Yorkers Can Smoke Weed in Public, Can We Blaze It at the Park?

New York is the first state to legalize outdoor consumption in many shared spaces, which is a huge step, but it’s not a free-for-all.
Katie Way
Brooklyn, US
April 1, 2021, 2:11pm
Woman Smoking Marijuana Joint Outdoors
Photo by Shane Cotee via Getty Images

Oh shit! On Wednesday, weed legalization in New York state officially passed! Thanks to a piece of firmly progressive legislation called the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (which also pays special attention to equity measures like reparations and community reinvestment), the Empire State immediately allows public cannabis consumption everywhere that cigarette smoking is legal—meaning it’s the first state in the U.S. to allow smoking weed outside in public. This is, of course, a distinct harbinger of fun to come: Grub Street trumpeted the move as “an early start” to “New York’s summer of hedonism,” which, 1) hell yeah and 2) “Summer of Hedonism” sounds like a weed strain. A weed strain I will buy legally when dispensaries open in 2022!!! 

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There is a slight… let’s say… haze surrounding the good news though, because of one key setting where cigarettes are verboten: public parks. There are also parks in New York that don’t belong to New York itself, and then, where do we stand? Let’s settle some outstanding questions as New York boldly moves some boundaries forward.

Can I smoke weed in a public city park?

It is not and likely will not ever be legal to smoke weed in a public park in New York City. That’s thanks to a man we all helped bully out of the 2020 presidential race: Mike Bloomberg, who proposed the rule in 2010 and finally implemented it in 2011 as New York City’s least fun* mayor.

Still, as anyone who has ever hypothetically speaking smoked a cigarette in Prospect Park on a beautiful mid-March evening knows, this “ban” will likely be selectively enforced depending on who’s around and who’s doing the smoking. Luckily, that enforcement shouldn’t be too harsh. According to a rundown from Gothamist, penalties for smoking weed in a park will range from “a $25 fine, and up to 20 hours of community service if you're found guilty” because the act has officially been downgraded from a crime to a civil infraction. There’s also nothing to stop you from, say, smoking weed right outside of a park if no intervening businesses are in the way and then enjoying the park atmosphere directly after. It’s literally legal!

I’m searching for loopholes and I see that Ellis Island is technically federal land. May I spark up with Lady Liberty, or in any other federally sovereign area?

There is, sadly, one area of greenery in New York City where cigarettes are kosher but weed still isn’t:

That’s right. Ellis Island, home of Lady Liberty, who I desperately need to light up with like yesterday, is a weed-free zone thanks to its status as a national monument under the National Parks Service. Because Ellis Island is technically federal land, federal laws still apply and according to the narcs in the White House, cannabis is strictly illegal. This is all to say that until the federal government gets hip to what the majority of people living in the U.S. want (I mean, let me know, but still).

What if I wish to still get high with Her?

Look: I feel you. If you want to get high with Her or stay stoned in a NYC park risk-free, edibles or another discreet consumption method are gonna be your best option.

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