New York Legislature votes to legalize adult-use, recreational cannabis

New York State legislature voted to legalize adult cannabis. | Susan Montoya Brya / AP Photo

New York state legislature voted late Tuesday to legalize adult cannabis and create the second largest recreational marijuana market in the country. This created the basis for the official entry of the Empire State 16 other states that has accepted full legalization.

The “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” NY S854 (21R) /. NY A1248 (21R) cleared the Assembly and Senate after hours of debate over the proposed regulatory structure, the public safety and health implications of the law. It is now awaiting final approval from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has said he looks forward to “putting these laws into law”.

Handover of the bill – what was Changed Saturday under a three-way agreement in the Senate, Assembly, and Governor’s Office for final language – limited years of work legalizing recreational cannabis for New Yorkers age 21 and older.

Congregation Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill in her chamber, said it will continue the “work of lawmakers to get rid of the ban” by lowering criminal penalties for possession and sale of cannabis and eviction for past criminal convictions and tax revenue for communities disproportionately affected by the state’s once infamous drug laws.

“Although it took a long time, we are making it happen today,” she said in the ground notes. “Today we reverse 90 years of the ban. The last time New York State did something like this was when we lifted the alcohol ban: that was in 1933. Here we are in 2021 – nearly 100 years of marijuana bans – and we’re removing it. “

Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said she was “very proud to have played a role in the enormous task of getting us here today.”

The passage of the bill was a major political victory not only for the sponsors but also for Cuomo, whose legacy has suffered a blow in recent weeks due to allegations of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior at work and a cover-up on deaths in nursing homes.

Once the bill is signed, more than two-thirds of the Northeast’s 56 million residents will live in states that have legalized recreational cannabis, increasing pressure on Washington, DC, to ease state restrictions on the drug.

The sweeping bill provides for the establishment of an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the recreational, medicinal, and agricultural cannabis markets in New York. It sets a sales tax of 9 percent on cannabis, an additional tax split of 4 percent between county and municipality, and another tax based on the THC content – 0.5 cents per milligram for flowers, 0.8 cents per milligram for concentrated Cannabis and 3 cents per milligram for edible. Forty percent of the excess revenue from sales would be used to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by state drug laws, 40 percent for public education, and 20 percent for drug treatment, prevention and education.

Cities and villages would have the opportunity to refuse the use of pharmacies and consumption places for adults in their communities.

Legislation also allows limited home-growing of three mature and three immature plants; includes stock programs to provide broad opportunities for participation in the emerging legal industry; End penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis; and calls for the automatic deletion of records for individuals with previous convictions for activities that are no longer criminalized. And it introduces a new set of criminal penalties for the illegal possession and sale of cannabis, and incorporates the impairment of cannabis into violating driving behavior while impaired.

Congregation spokesman Carl Heastie said Chamber Democrats “knew it was important to get this right – in a way that included those who are deliberately and often excluded from the process.” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​added, “The Senate Democratic majority is strengthening to bring New Yorkers the fair and equitable adult marijuana market they deserve.”

Called the bill “a nationwide leading model of what marijuana legalization might look like,” Krueger found that it reflected the contributions proponents and critics have offered in the seven years since it was first introduced. The regulatory structure proposed by the MRTA will ensure that marijuana is protected from the sale of seeds while reducing the footprint of the state’s illegal market.

However, opponents warned that the measure would increase the incidence of substance abuse and driving disorders. They also raised concerns that New Yorkers under the age of 21 would have easier access to the drug.

“I think this bill is going to cost us more than good,” said Congregation member Robert Smullen (R-Gloversville).

Congregation member Mike Lawler (R-Orangetown) argued, “By legalizing recreational marijuana but not limiting its potency, we’re making sure more people have substance use disorders.”

Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a vocal critic of the legislation, said “this is a very bad bill” for communities, road safety and public health.

“Perhaps in an extremely challenging year, the governor and lawmakers needed a political diversion to indulge Big Marijuana’s interests over the welfare of New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.

The bill passage comes a year after lawmakers stopped efforts Legalize cannabis when Covid-19 began to spread – and months after New Jersey voters approved legal marijuana in the 2020 election, put new pressure on New York to act.

New York is expected to be the fourth state to pass legislation legalizing recreational activities, joining Illinois, Virginia and Vermont. Several other states, including New Mexico, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, are also trying to pass adult legalization laws this year.

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