HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) — As part of a months-long process to allow recreational marijuana to be sold legally in New York, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, or OCM, unveiled a series of ads on Monday.

They’re meant to transition New Yorkers to a point of legal sales this year. At the same time, the OCM’s executive director cautioned that recreational marijuana currently being sold in New York is potentially hazardous to consume.

The ads, which are on video at varying lengths in both English and Spanish, as well as on the radio in both languages, clarify what the legal status of marijuana sales are now, and advise people to keep marijuana locked away from children, as well as to not drive while high, among other words of advice. 

They also make clear one simple but important message: “New York State has legalized cannabis.” 
That six-word quote begins the video spot, and Chris Alexander, the OCM executive director, said that was vital to include, for one reason.

“The research that we did building up to the campaign,” Alexander said, “found that very few New Yorkers knew that we’d legalized at all.”

Some people that PIX11 News encountered randomly confirmed that assessment, but the majority of residents acknowledged that they knew that recreational marijuana is legally sanctioned.  

Still, the process by which pot will get regulated, tested, and taxed before sale is still months away from completion. The state is accepting, and then reviewing licenses for businesses that want to sell. Communities of color most strongly impacted by past drug enforcement are expected to receive at least half of the licenses. 

In the meantime, however, some entrepreneurs have what are called gifting arrangements, where they officially sell something other than pot, then provide marijuana as a gift. The OCM leader had words of caution about them.

“Gifting operations are not legal,” he said. “We’re out to shut them down.”

Some residents did say that they don’t assume the best about the sale of recreational marijuana, even when they become regulated and tested by the state. 

“I think it brings the wrong element here,” said a Harlem resident who only gave her first name, Tiffany.  “I don’t think it’s something that my kids should see, or anything like that.”