New York State just legalized marijuana. Yes, you read that right, it finally happened for New York State. The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act, was passed by the State Assembly and the State Senate last night and this morning Governor Cuomo signed the bill. The bill permits adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana and grow up to six plants in their home. One can possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana and 24 ounces of concentrate. It also seeks to redress the wrongs done by the war on drugs to minority communities.
Black and Latino New Yorkers combined made up 94% of marijuana-related arrests by the NYPD in 2020, despite the fact that the city’s statistics show that white New Yorkers use marijuana at a higher rate than that of either Latino or Black residents.
All convictions and arrests for marijuana legalized under the law will be expunged and cops will no longer be able to use the smell of marijuana as a reason to search, which can happen frequently for a car or even a home (which is quite harmful when the cops are lying).
The MRTA directs 40% to community reinvestment grants for communities harmed by marijuana prohibition, 40% of cannabis revenues to education and 20% to drug treatment and public education programs.
The bill is expected to bring in some handsome revenue for the state. There will be a 9% state tax and then New York City will add a 4% local tax on top of that. The bill also creates equity programs for loans to include small farmers who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
An estimate from Cuomo’s office predicts annual tax revenues from legal weed sales could bring in $350 million a year and 60,000 jobs to the state when the industry is fully established, though that may take some time.
The MRTA creates the Office of Cannabis Management, which will be an independent agency operating with the New York State Liquor Authority. It will be the OCM’s job to regulate the recreational cannabis market and the existing medical cannabis programs.
New York is now the 15th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize marijuana for recreational use. A bill to legalize marijuana has been a goal of progressives in New York for years, but has been blocked by conservatives and just as importantly, Cuomo. His tune has changed recently and with New Jersey legalizing, it became obvious that unless the state wanted to lose out on marijuana revenue to neighboring states, it needed to legalize itself.
The law gives localities the ability to pass laws banning cannabis dispensaries and consumption licenses, with a deadline of nine months after the legislation, so expect cop and teacher groups, who were against the bill, to lobby hard around the state for the rest of the year.
Sales won’t begin at least for another year or two as infrastructure is built up.