New York Legislators could vote as early as Tuesday on the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the state. Word of a compromise on language began to circulate last week, but it wasn’t until the weekend when the actual text of the legislation was released. the legislation is 128 pages longs.
Melissa Moore, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance and member of Start SMART NY Coalition (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade) said, “At long last, marijuana reform is finally almost a reality in New York State. Through the tireless work of people impacted by prohibition, advocates and champion lawmakers, like Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger, New York is on the precipice of ushering in a new era of marijuana justice. Advancing legalization in New York also puts another nail in the coffin of the war on drugs that has devastated so many communities across the state. By comprehensively addressing the harms of past criminalization, this legislation will create one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the country. It is setting a national model for reform with community reinvestment, social equity, and justice front and center.”
This is a summary of the main components of the 128-page New York marijuana legalization bill according to Marijuana Moment:
- -Adults 21 and older would be able to possess and purchase marijuana products from licensed retailers.
- -There would be no penalties for public possession of up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of marijuana concentrates, and people could store up to five pounds of cannabis at home.
- -Adults could also cultivate up to six plants for personal use, three of which could be mature. A maximum of 12 plants could be grown per household with more than one adult. Homegrow would not take effect until regulators set rules for it, and they would have a maximum of six months to do so for medical patients and must do so for adult-use consumers no later than 18 months after the first retail recreational sales begin.
- -People with convictions for marijuana-related activity made legal under the legislation would have their records automatically expunged.
- -A system of licenses for commercial cultivators, processors, distributors, retailers, cooperatives and nurseries would be created, with a prohibition on vertical integration except for microbusinesses.
- -Social consumption sites and delivery services would be permitted.
- -Individual jurisdictions would be allowed to opt-out of allowing retailers or social consumption sites by the end of this year, but residents could seek to override such bans via a local referendum process.
- -A new Office of Cannabis Management—an independent agency operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority—would be responsible for regulating the recreational cannabis market as well as the existing medical marijuana and hemp programs and would be overseen by a five-member Cannabis Control Board. Three members would be appointed by the governor, and the Senate and Assembly would appoint one member each.
- -The legislation sets a goal of having 50 percent of marijuana business licenses issued to social equity applicants, defined as people from “communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition” as well as minority- and women-owned businesses, disabled veterans and financially distressed farmers.
- -Cannabis products would be subject to a state tax of nine percent, plus an additional four percent local tax that would be split between counties and cities/towns/villages, with 75 percent of the local earnings going to the municipalities and 25 percent to the counties. Marijuana distributors would also face a THC tax based on type of product, as follows: 0.5 cents per milligram for flower, 0.8 cents per milligram for concentrated cannabis and 3 cents per milligram for edibles.
- -Tax revenue from marijuana sales would cover the costs of administering the program. After that, 40 percent of the remaining dollars would go to a community reinvestment fund, 40 percent would support the state’s public schools and 20 percent would fund drug treatment facilities and public education programs.
- -Police could not use the odor of cannabis to justify searches.
- -The State Department of Health would oversee a study of technologies for detecting cannabis-impaired driving, after which it could approve and certify the use of such a test. Additional funds for drug recognition experts also would be made available.
- -The state’s existing medical cannabis program would also be changed to expand the list of qualifying conditions and allow patients to smoke marijuana products. Patients could also obtain a 60-day, rather than 30-day, supply.
- -Smokable hemp flower sales would be allowed.
- -Current medical cannabis businesses could participate in the recreational market in exchange for licensing fees that will help to fund the social equity program.
Anne Oredeko, Supervising Attorney of the Racial Justice Unit, and Anthony Posada, Supervising Attorney of the Community Justice Unit at The Legal Aid Society, issued a joint statement saying, “For decades, New York State’s racist war on marijuana ensnared thousands of our clients – nearly all of whom are from Black and Latinx communities – and other New Yorkers from communities of color across the state, resulting in needless incarceration and a host of other devastating consequences. 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.”