NEW YORK (TNS) — The sale of recreational marijuana would be legal for adults 21 and older in the Empire State, under a bill top lawmakers agreed to late Saturday. It’s expected to pass both chambers of the legislature as soon as next week.
Coming after years of harsh penalties for marijuana possession — with many New Yorkers of color in particular slapped with life-ruining sentences — the legislation would also expunge criminal records for people who bought or sold quantities that will become legal.
“For generations, too many New Yorkers have been unfairly penalized for the use and sale of adult-use cannabis, arbitrarily arrested and jailed with harsh mandatory minimum sentences,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s reeling from a series of scandals. “After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State.”
The bill legalizes possession of up to 3 ounces of pot and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate.
It would also establish an “Office of Cannabis Management” to oversee production and sales of pot. Along with handling quality control, the office would be charged with getting half of pot-selling licenses to minority- and women-owned businesses.
Five board members, appointed by both the state legislature and the governor, will oversee the new office. Cuomo initially wanted the agency to report just to him.
Marijuana can also be grown in the comfort of one’s own home — six “mature” plants and six “immature” ones per household — under the legislation.
The state would also expand the list of medical conditions making a patient eligible for medical use of marijuana.
At a time of fiscal uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, budget officials have estimated that the program could eventually bring in about $350 million a year in revenue for the state. The legislation includes a 9% sales tax on pot, with counties allowed to impose an additional levy of up to 4%.
The legal marijuana market will also create “30,000 to 60,000 jobs,” Cuomo estimated.
New York is following in the footsteps of about a dozen states that have legalized recreational pot as Americans have mellowed regarding drug law.
“For years I have been working toward legalizing marijuana in a way that ensured a safe product, that we would be able to invest in the lives of people who suffered as a result of mass incarcerations, and to allow us to invest in our communities,” stated Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo. “I have been committed to getting this done correctly and justly. I believe that the [Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act] does all of those things.”
The bill “rights decades of disproportionately targeting people of color, ensures they are included in the legal marijuana industry and reinvests in education and in communities that have been harmed,” stated Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat.
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