New York State has approved recreational marijuana use after years of unsuccessful initiatives, implementing a major opportunity that will invest huge amounts of money in cannabis tax proceeds in minority areas affected by the drug war generations.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo authorized law making cannabis legal for all adults on March 31st. It’s a day after the State Senate approved the bill in Albany after hours of discussion.
New York has become the 15th state to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults, marking a landmark point in the state’s history. The Empire State has established itself as one of the nation’s largest legalized marijuana markets. It’s also one of the few states where marijuana prohibition is linked to economic and racial equality.
Gov. Cuomo said in a statement, “This is a historic day in New York — one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits.”
According to the announcement, the proposal could produce up to 60,000 jobs and $350 million in annual tax revenue for the state. A 14% combined sales tax comprises 9% for the state, 3% for the municipality where the sale is made, and 1% for the county. The new edition of the bill dedicates 40% of tax proceeds to reinvestment of areas most impacted by cannabis law reform, 40% to public education, and 20% to opioid recovery, prevention, and education.
The law’s possession provisions go into effect right away. Adults 21 and over will now possess up to three ounces of marijuana or 24 grams of concentrates.
The pace at which the legislation takes place is remarkable. The bulk of legislation enacted by state legislatures comes into effect at the start of the following year or the succeeding fiscal year. The “effective today” provision was introduced in New York due to the state’s weak rate of drug convictions and fines. Although cannabis was long since “decriminalized,” over 100,000 New York State people were convicted last year.
New Yorkers will be able to obtain 3 ounces of weed and cultivate up to three mature cannabis plants at a household under the final law, with a maximum of six per residence.
The legislators were triumphant. Those accused of marijuana-related crimes that are no longer criminalized will have their convictions immediately removed, in addition to the 40% of tax proceeds from pot sales flowing to those areas. According to the bill, people with criminal records and others participating in the illegal cannabis industry will be permitted to engage in the emerging legal market.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “This effort was years in the making, and we have finally achieved what many thoughts were impossible, a bill that legalizes marijuana while standing up for social equity, enhancing education, and protecting public safety,” on Wednesday.
Efforts to regulate marijuana in the past have failed due to disputes about how the tax revenue generated by sales will be allocated. The governor needed greater say of how the money was invested, so Democratic senators, especially those who are nonwhite, demanded that a significant majority of the funds be earmarked for neighborhoods where Black citizens have been convicted in disproportionate amounts on drug charges.
Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, the Democratic majority leader in the Assembly who sponsored the bill, said, “Unlike any other states in America, this legislation is intentional about equity,” she also added, “Equity is not a second thought, it’s the first one, and it needs to be because the people who paid the price for this war on drugs have lost so much.”
The bill creates the Office of Cannabis Administration, which will control the selling and delivery of medical and recreational cannabis, all of which were approved in 2014. The department will be led by a five-member panel, with three members named by the governor and one by each state legislature.
State Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, said in an interview, “My colleagues and I knew it was important to do this the right way — in a way that would include those targeted and frequently excluded from the process.”
Later in 2022, retail cannabis outlets are scheduled to open. Since the state will establish a legal system, they will be licensed under a separate state department, the Office of Cannabis Management.
On the other hand, New Yorkers are only allowed to smoke cannabis in public where tobacco is legal. Simultaneously, municipal governments and a new state regulator can establish rules to tighten the restrictions. However, consuming cannabis is illegal in schools, offices, and cars. It would be prohibited in parks, beaches, boardwalks, public plazas, and play areas in New York City, where cigarette smoke is forbidden. On public sidewalks, smoking is usually tolerated.
Since many states, including New Jersey, recently passed measures to allow recreational cannabis, state lawmakers’ pressure to decriminalize cannabis has intensified. Pot legalization supporters praised New York lawmakers for passing the bill during this year’s legislative session.
Jawanza James Williams, the director of organizing at VOCAL-NY, said, “The Assembly and the Senate modeled what democracy looks like when the legislature allows progressive movements to lead towards justice,” in a statement on the night of March 30th.
“We expect 2021 to be a record-breaking year for legislatures legalizing cannabis,” The executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project, Steve Hawkins, said in a statement. “More than two-thirds of Americans believe it’s time to end prohibition, and this move represents the latest example of elected officials joining the chorus of support for legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults,” he added.
Senator Liz Krueger also gave her opinion regarding the recent development of cannabis in the state. She stated, “I cannot be more proud to cast my vote to end the failed policies of marijuana prohibition in our state and begin the process of building a fair and inclusive legal market for adult-use cannabis.”
“It has been a long road to get here, but it will be worth the wait,” Sen. Krueger added.
The Bottom Line
New York’s cannabis consumers might have waited so long to use the plant and enjoy its benefits freely, but it seems to be worth the wait. March 31st, 2021, marked as the historical day of decade-long discussions as the Empire State now legalizes the recreational use of marijuana.