NYC cannabis etiquette: Can I roll up weed on the subway?

Published on March 7, 2023 · Last updated March 8, 2023
Woman holds weed on NYC subway train. (Meg Schmidt)
Woman holds weed on NYC subway train. (Meg Schmidt)

Yes, you can legally roll your weed on the subway or smoke openly in the streets. But should you? Here are Leafly’s tips for toking in the city.

New York, which initially legalized adult-use weed in 2021 and rolled out legal sales at the end of 2022, allows cannabis smoking anywhere cigarette smoking is permitted. It also allows the possession of up to three ounces of flower, which could have landed you in prison under drug laws of the recent past. But just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.

Whether you are rolling up on the train, lighting up on the street, or going on a buzzed adventure, revisit these basics of cannabis etiquette before your next trip downtown.

Is it legal to roll weed in public in New York City?

Rolling up weed in public was once an easy way to get locked up. Now, New Yorkers can roll up almost anywhere. (Meg Schmidt / Leafly)

After New York passed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) in March 2021, it became legal to possess (and therefore roll up) cannabis virtually anywhere, including on long subway treks. As long as you don’t light up.

A state official told Leafly that they witnessed New Yorkers preparing their joints and blunts on the train in 2021, post-MRTA. They noted that the only broken law they observed was the few seconds subway rollers had to remove their face masks to seal their spliffs with a lick.

A pile of cannabis mess in the shape of New York state, next to a joint and grinder. (AdobeStock)

Just because it’s legal to roll up on the way to a party or back home after a long night, doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. Cannabis lovers across New York are depending on all fellow tokers not to ruin the new set-up for the rest of us. There is already public pushback against the new freedoms legalization offers. So don’t give the other side more ammo by dropping buds on business suits during rush hour, or in front of kids right after school lets out.

‘I smell some weed,’ NYC mayor delighted by Times Square dank

If you find yourself on a mostly empty train, or are surrounded by adults who are unbothered by your dank, roll up without worries. Just don’t assume everyone loves that skunky smell as much as you. And try not to catch an attitude if someone politely asks you not to funk up their ride. You don’t look as cool as you think struggling against the train’s turbulence attempting to pearl a perfect jay. So save the roll job for your next stop, or your final destination if there’s any chance you might disturb your fellow passengers.

Is it legal to smoke in public in New York City?

A woman with designer nails lights a joint in downtown New York City.( Meg Schmidt / Leafly)

Yes, with a few exceptions. New Yorkers can smoke cannabis anywhere except public parks, pedestrian plazas like Herald Square and Times Square, and some private building entrances. Just be aware of your chronic footprint—or the airspace that your smoke takes up around you.

Man smoking a joint. (AdobeStock)

Walking by a school, or a parent pushing a stroller? Cross the street, or at least hold your breath until they pass. Bustling through a crowded avenue? Step to a side street or alley, out of respect, not shame. There are already countless complaints that the city smells like weed (at least it’s better than garbage, right?). So don’t give uptight lawmakers and locals more fire power and NIMBY-talking points.

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Tips for being high in public

las vegas cannabition cannabis museum: header

Attention edible lovers and light weight smokers—this one’s for you. New York City is full of incredible activities, and great cannabis products. So you’re not the only one thinking of going to a museum, Broadway play, or Knicks game “Big Apple baked.” The key is to plan well, stay aware of your surroundings, and if you’re gonna go see a Pixar movie alone, sit in the back and do your best not to scare the children.

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
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If you’re trying edibles, make sure you know what you’re taking, and how to dose them. Unlike cannabis flower, edibles can hit you all at once, and last for hours. Avoid an unnecessary panic attack, 48-hour hibernation, or embarrassing emergency room visit by eating responsibly.

A New Yorker enjoys some local product at a Spleef NYC canna-cocktail party. (AP Photo / Mary Altaffer, File)
A New Yorker enjoys some local product at a Spleef NYC canna-cocktail party. (AP Photo / Mary Altaffer, File)

If you’re not sure how cannabis will impact you, it may be best to only consume at home, or in a controlled environment. If you do happen to venture out, find activities that put you at ease.

Places in New York City where it’s illegal to smoke

people on blankets in park
Sorry New York, the days of legally smoking in parks have come to an end. (Meg Schmidt / Leafly)
  • Bars and pubs (including hotel lobbies)
  • Dance Clubs
  • Government buildings
  • Hospitals
  • Museums
  • Restaurants and Cafes (including sidewalk seating areas)
  • Theaters (including movie theaters, Broadway theaters and all other live music and performance theaters)
  • On public transportation (including the following: Airports, Buses, Ferries, Taxis, Subway trains, stations, and platforms
  • Outdoor public spaces including: All New York City parks including Central Park, Beaches, and boardwalks
  • Playgrounds and pools
  • Public golf courses
  • Sports Stadiums (Including Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, Aqueduct Racetrack & the Casino)
  • Pedestrian plazas like Times Square and Herald Square.
holding joint on beach

Places in New York where you can legally smoke

  • In a hotel room designated for smokers
  • In a private residence
  • In a private vehicle
  • On city sidewalks except within 15 feet of any entrance or exit to a healthcare facility.
  • Retail tobacco stores
  • Tobacco Bars
  • At Cigar Bars (ask first)

State officials told Leafly that they have no intentions to criminalize consumption in New York. But negative stigmas about the plant and its users will persist if the cannabis community doesn’t consume respectfully amid the new reality of legalization. So be aware and accountable as you enjoy the new freedoms granted by the MRTA.

Until our next etiquette lesson: Stay classy, New York cannabis lovers!

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Leafly Staff
Leafly Staff
Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.
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