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Asking for a friend, again: Growing your own pot, drug testing and more

With so much uncertainty in the air about legalizing marijuana, your friends seem to have a lot more questions about what may be in store for New York State since our last "Asking for a Friend" story.

Since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo released his legalization plan last month,  Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes has been championing the Assembly version.

Both versions call for legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana, but Peoples-Stokes says the governor and the Legislature are still far apart on a lot of issues, among them how to spend the estimated $300 million a year in tax revenue. Lawmakers also have reservations about having a single person serve as the executive director of  the Office of Cannabis Management.

Here are some answers to your friends' questions:

What happens to drug testing at workplaces?

Both Cuomo's and the Assembly versions include protections for workers.

Under both proposals, it would be illegal for an employer to "take any adverse employment action" against an employee or potential employee based on conduct that would be legalized under the proposed marijuana law. The Assembly version explicitly says an employer can't refuse to hire, fire or take other action for a drug test that comes back positive for marijuana.

But there would be some big exceptions.

Both plans would continue to allow employers to take action against an employee if an employee’s cannabis use were to impact job performance or if an employee possesses or uses cannabis at work.

Everything you wanted to know about legalizing pot in New York

Can people grow their own marijuana?

As it stands, Cuomo's plan allows only people enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program to grow their own marijuana. They can grow up to four plants at home in an enclosed, locked space not viewable to the public and only for the patient’s use.

The Assembly version calls for allowing adults to grow up to six cannabis plants per household.

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Now, there are at least seven states in the U.S. with similar rules that only allow people who are in medical marijuana programs to grow their own cannabis plants. They are Arizona, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Washington, according to MarijuanaBreak.com, a website that describes itself as a resource about medical marijuana.

Eight states, along with Washington, D.C., allow adults to grow a limited number of plants for recreational use, the website said.

Currently, it's a misdemeanor to grow marijuana in New York State, regardless of amount. (But remember, there are laws about possession of the actual marijuana that can range from a violation up to a felony, depending on the amount.) Someone convicted of growing marijuana in New York State faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

When's the earliest I'd be able to smoke pot legally?

It depends on whether Cuomo and legislators can come to an agreement on legalizing marijuana as part of the state budget process, which has a deadline of April 1.

Even with a deal, it would likely be a long time before New Yorkers will be toking up legally.

Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious has pointed out that it took 18 months from the time Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act that legalized medical marijuana in July 2014 to when the first patients were able to legally obtain medical marijuana.

So it could be late 2020 at the earliest.

Can I smoke marijuana as a passenger in a car?

It will remain illegal to smoke or be impaired by marijuana while driving. But it's not clear yet what the rules will be for passengers.

In terms of alcohol, it's illegal in New York State for both drivers and passengers to have an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. The only exception is for passengers in vehicles that can carry 10 or more passengers, such as a limousine.

Also, Erie County's new smoking regulations that prohibit smoking in a vehicle with child passengers would apply to marijuana use. There's a $50 fine for smoking in a car with children inside, whether it's moving or parked.

Got more questions about legalizing pot? Email Maki Becker at mbecker@buffnews.com.

Asking for a friend: What to know about legalized pot in New York

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