New York has legalized cannabis becoming just the fourth state to approve the reforms via the legislative process. The measure passed both chambers along party lines and was signed into law Wednesday morning by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
Some aspects of the reforms took effect immediately, including adult possession, expungement of crimes now legal under the new regime, and the creation of the Office of Cannabis Management. The law allows adults to grow their own plants – three mature and three immature – but that provision doesn’t take effect until sales begin, which are anticipated in about 18 months.
#BREAKING: I just signed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis.
The bill creates automatic expungement of previous marijuana convictions that would now be legal.
This is a historic day.
I thank the Leader and Speaker and the tireless advocacy of so many.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 31, 2021
Rep. Richard Gottfried (D), a longtime champion of the reforms in the state, called the law’s passage “a milestone on the road toward a more rational drug policy in New York.”
“Now, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will take a giant step forward. It will create economic opportunities, including community reinvestment and social equity programs. As a result of MRTA’s passage, New York is projected to collect new annual state tax revenues of about $350 million, and to generate between 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.” – Gottfried in a statement
The final version of the bill earmarks 40% of tax revenues for reinvestment in communities most affected by the enforcement of cannabis laws, 40% for public education, and 20% for drug treatment, prevention, and education. The bill imposes a 9% state and 4% local tax on recreational cannabis sales along taxes based on THC content – 0.5 cents per milligram for flower, 0.8 cents per milligram for concentrates, and 0.3 cents per milligram for edibles.
The bill also allows for social use establishments.
Half of the licenses will be set aside for social equity applicants, including minorities, women, disabled veterans, and people most affected by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis laws. Social equity programs are also included in the measure, including loans, grants, and incubator programs for small farmers and individuals from unduly impacted communities who want to enter the space.
Empire State NORML Deputy Director Troy Smit noted that New York was once the “cannabis arrest capital of the world.”
“This might not be the perfect piece of legislation,” Smit said in a statement, “but today, cannabis consumers can hold their heads high and smell the flowers.”
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