New York reaches deal to legalize recreational marijuana
State lawmakers finalized a deal on Thursday for legalize recreational marijuana in new York, paving the way for a potential $ 4.2 billion industry it could create tens of thousands of jobs and become one of the country’s biggest markets.
Following several unsuccessful attempts, lawmakers in Albany have reached a deal with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, a move officials hope will help end years of racially disproportionate policing who has seen blacks and Hispanics arrested on low-level marijuana charges much more frequently than whites.
The deal would allow delivery of the drug and would allow club-style lounges or “consumption sites” where marijuana, but not alcohol, could be consumed, details obtained by The New York Times. It would also allow a person to grow up to six marijuana plants at home, indoors or outdoors, for personal use.
If approved, the first sales of legal marijuana are likely over a year away: officials must first face the daunting task of writing the complex rules that will control a highly regulated market, from regulating wholesalers and dispensaries for the attribution of culture. and retail licensing, with the creation of new taxes and a five-member oversight committee that would oversee the industry.
The deal was crafted with an intense focus on repairing the damage in communities affected by the decades-long war on drugs. Millions of dollars in tax revenue from the sale of cannabis would be reinvested in minority communities each year, and a significant portion of business licenses would be reserved for minority business owners.
“A percentage of the revenue collected will be invested in the communities where people who were mass incarcerated come and in many cases still live,” said MP Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat who led the legalization effort in the country. lower house for years. “For me, it’s about more than generating income: it’s about investing in the lives of people who have been damaged.”
With New York following the lead of over a dozen states legalize recreational marijuanaDemocratic lawmakers have sought to frame their proposal on best practices from other states, hoping to make New York’s agenda a national model.
The final wording of the legislation was still under review on Thursday, but a bill could be passed by the Democratic-controlled state legislature as early as next week, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.
“When this bill is finally passed and signed, New York will be able to say that we have finally defeated damaging criminal laws that have done nothing but ruin people’s lives,” State Senator said. Liz Krueger, a Democrat who led the negotiations in senior management. bedroom. “We can finally say that we are going to have a cannabis industry that assures people who buy the product that they are buying a legitimate product from legitimate companies.”
The multi-year push to legalize recreational marijuana in New York City, a proposal that has often found its momentum blocked by a political travel thread, has received an unexpected boost from Mr. Cuomo’s recent political scandals.
Democrats started the year cautious optimism they would come to an agreement. New Jersey had recently legalized drugs, pressuring New York to follow suit, and the state sorely needed new tax revenue after the pandemic wiped out state coffers.
For Democratic lawmakers, it was about bridging the gap between their marijuana bill and the governor’s proposal, which he unveiled. earlier this year.
But the negotiations were called into question when several women began accusing Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment end of February. The charges, as well as close scrutiny his handling of retirement homes during the pandemic, plunged his administration into scandal and left his political future at stake.
As it turned out, however, reaching a deal to legalize cannabis became a higher priority for Mr Cuomo, as several lawmakers and lobbyists speculated that the governor may have wanted to divert attention from his aggravating seizures. The legalization of marijuana was both a headline-grabbing issue and a popular political step among voters.
Nearly 60% of New York City voters support legalizing recreational marijuana, according to a March Siena College poll. Among black voters, a crucial part of Mr. Cuomo’s electoral base, who he appealed to recently71% said they were in favor of legalization.
The marijuana proposal was initially being negotiated as part of the state budget, which is due April 1, but lawmakers have said it will be fast-tracked to be passed as a stand-alone law.
Mr. Cuomo usually wields disproportionate influence in budget negotiations, but as his scandals escalated and many in his party began to call for his resignation, the governor’s stature diminished.
Suddenly, Democratic lawmakers had new leverage. They seized the opportunity to lobby for their demands and negotiate an agreement that more closely reflects their existing legislation, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, or MRTA, a proposal announced by a statewide coalition of activists.
Some seasoned lobbyists and lawmakers, long accustomed to Mr. Cuomo’s powerful negotiating tactics, said they were surprised by the torrent of concessions the governor was prepared to make to reach a deal.
The governor had previously insisted that the executive branch retain most of the control over tax revenue, while lawmakers insisted on allocating a large portion of the revenue to communities with high marijuana application rates.
Under the current deal, lawmakers appeared to be granting their wish: forty percent of most tax revenue would be reinvested in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs; 40 percent would be oriented towards public education; and the remaining 20 percent would go to drug treatment, prevention and education.
The retail sale of marijuana would be subject to a 9% state tax and a 4% local tax.
The agreement also includes “Equity programs” that would provide loans, grants and incubation programs to small farmers and people from disproportionately affected communities who wish to enter the industry.
One of the goals of the law is that half of the program’s business licenses go to so-called equity contenders, which could include disabled veterans, minority and women-owned businesses, and people who have parents convicted of marijuana.
The proposal would also eliminate the penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis and allow the automatic deregistration of the records of those convicted of illegal activities that are no longer criminalized.
The legislation will seek to improve the state’s existing medical marijuana program, which has been criticized for years. too restrictive. This would significantly expand the list of covered medical conditions, allow patients to smoke or vape medical marijuana and receive a 60-day supply of the drug, doubling the current 30-day cap. Medical marijuana companies would also be allowed to enter the recreational market.
Patients could grow medical marijuana at home six months after the bill is passed. Those who want to grow marijuana recreationally at home will have to wait longer: 18 months after the first adult dispensary opens, in order to give the regulated market time to develop.
Staff members of the state legislature met until Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday as they struggled to reach consensus.
Among the final sticking points were the safety concerns related to a potential increase in impaired driving if the drugs were legalized, and how the highway code and state vehicles would address those concerns. Many Republicans, who are a minority in the legislature, oppose legalization, as do some doctors, law enforcement groups and the state’s Parents Association.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term, had long opposed legalization, describing weed as a “entry drug” just a few years ago. His stance shifted in 2018 as neighboring states led similar efforts and he faced a main challenge from Cynthia Nixon, a progressive who made legalization of marijuana a mainstay of his campaign.
Momentum picked up when the Democratic Party regained full control of the state legislature in 2018 for the first time in a decade and vowed to prioritize legalization. But attempts to do so have occurred on several occasions.
In 2019, a deal collapsed over differences over how to spend tax revenues from cannabis sales and distribute business licenses. In 2020, the pandemic response derailed a new legalization effort.
The decision to regulate the drug is in part aimed at absorbing the state’s illicit marijuana market, a goal that would largely depend on the convenience and affordability of legal cannabis products.
The cannabis market in New York is currently estimated at $ 4.6 billion and is expected to reach $ 5.8 billion by 2027, according to a recent study commissioned by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association. The state could capture and tax $ 1.2 billion from this market by 2023 and $ 4.2 billion by 2027, depending on rules and regulations, according to the study.