Second-Hand Smoke: Marijuana Consumption in Public Places

August 8, 2023

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

In 2021, New York legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use. Similar to alcohol, the legislation also intended to keep the drug out of the hands of children and youth under age 21. While there have been issues with the new laws and regulations, many have embraced the changes. However, it has been debated whether second-hand smoke from marijuana has become problematic.


Marijuana Possession and Public Consumption

In New York, adults 21 years or older can possess up to three ounces of marijuana. They can also possess up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis.

There are strict laws about smoking in public places in New York – whether it’s tobacco or marijuana. Workplaces must be 100% smoke-free and vape-free. Additionally, this applies to restaurants and bars. The purpose is to reduce the amount of second-hand smoke to which workers are exposed.

When it comes to smoking or vaping marijuana, adults can do so anywhere smoking tobacco is allowed. However, smoking marijuana is not permitted in cars, even if the car is parked. Smoking marijuana is also not permitted in outdoor dining areas.

In the world of real estate, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant who uses marijuana. However, landlords, property owners, and rental companies can ban the use of the drug on their premises.


Issues With Second-Hand Smoke

Studies have found that inhaling second-hand marijuana smoke is worse than second-hand tobacco smoke. In some research, the particulate levels are even higher when marijuana is compared with tobacco. Even proper ventilation is usually insufficient to remove all risk.

Marijuana smoke includes many toxic and cancer-causing substances. Specifically, the smoke may include lead, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, mercury, cadmium, nickel, hydrogen cyanide, chromium. The smoke from marijuana may even include as much as three-times the amount of ammonia as tobacco smoke.

As such, inhaling marijuana smoke can have more serious and long-lasting consequences. It can also cause health side effects, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Fast heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slower reactions and altered perceptions
  • Breathing issues and lung injuries
  • Impaired coordination

Additionally, marijuana smoke can impact a pregnant person and the unborn child. Notably, studies have also found that there can be an earlier onset of psychotic disorders for those already at risk. This is particularly for people who start using marijuana at a younger age or use it frequently.


Legislation on Second-Hand Smoke

Recently, there is a movement to reduce the amount of second-hand smoke from marijuana to which folks are being exposed. In the New York State Legislature, some have called for allowing additional restrictions on the public consumption of marijuana.

Concerned about the risks of second-hand smoke, the legislators also cite to the nuisance of the odor of marijuana. Moreover, because of the THC in marijuana, they believe it should be regulated differently than tobacco due to the potential intoxicating effects.

Under the proposed bill (S7604/A7612), public marijuana use would be prohibited. However, local governments would be able to enact ordinances on whether and where marijuana could be publicly consumed. The bill also proposes fines of up to $125 for consuming marijuana in a public space.




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