Albany, N.Y. (AP) — New York is poised to join the growing number of states that have legalised marijuana after state lawmakers reached a late-night deal to allow sales of the drug for recreational use.
Democrats who now wield a veto-proof majority in the state Legislature have made passing it a priority this year, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has estimated legalization could eventually bring the state about $350 million annually.
“My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalisation to help heal and repair those same communities,” Sen. Liz Krueger, Senate sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate’s finance committee, said.
At least 14 other states already allow residents to buy marijuana for recreational and not just medical use, but New York’s past efforts to pass marijuana legalisation have failed in recent years.
The legislation would allow recreational marijuana sales to adults over the age of 21, and set up a licensing process for the delivery of cannabis products to customers.
Individual New Yorkers could grow up to three mature and three immature plants for personal consumption, and local governments could opt out of retail sales.
The legislation would take effect immediately if passed, though sales wouldn’t start until New York sets up rules and a proposed cannabis board.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes estimated Friday it could take 18 months to two years for sales to start.
Adam Goers, a vice president of Columbia Care, a New York medical marijuana provider that’s interested in getting into the recreational market, said New York’s proposed system would “ensure newcomers have a crack at the marketplace” alongside the state’s existing medical marijuana providers.
“There’s a big pie in which a lot of different folks are going to be able to be a part of it,” Goers said.
New York would set a 9% sales tax on cannabis, plus an additional 4% tax split between the county and local government.
It would also impose an additional tax based on the level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, ranging from 0.5 cents per milligram for flower to 3 cents per milligram for edibles.
New York would eliminate penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis, and automatically expunge records of people with past convictions for marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminalised.
That’s a step beyond a 2019 law that expunged many past convictions for marijuana possession and reduced the penalty for possessing small amounts.
And New York would provide loans, grants and incubator programs to encourage participation in the cannabis industry by people from minority communities, as well as small farmers, women and disabled veterans.
Proponents have said the move could create thousands of jobs and begin to address the racial injustice of a decades-long drug war that disproportionately targeted minority and poor communities.
New York’s Legal Aid Society also hailed the agreement. “This landmark legislation brings justice to New York State by ending prohibition, expunging conviction records that have curtailed the opportunities of countless predominately young Black and Latinx New Yorkers, and delivers economic justice to ensure that communities who have suffered the brunt of aggressive and disparate marijuana enforcement are first in line to reap the economic gain,” the group said in a news release Sunday.
New York officials plan to launch an education and prevention campaign aimed at reducing the risk of cannabis among school-aged children, and schools