New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recently announced an agreement on legislation (S.854-A/A.1248-A) to legalize adult use of cannabis in the state.
The bill will establish the Office of Cannabis Management to implement a comprehensive regulatory framework that would cover medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp. The bill will also expand New York State’s existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp programs.
The legislation provides licensing for marijuana producers, distributors, retailers and other actors in the cannabis market, and it creates a social and economic equity program to assist individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement that want to participate in the industry.
It is now legal to possess up to three ounces of cannabis in the state. Sales of recreational-use marijuana, however, won’t be made legal until the state establishes regulations.
The development of an adult-use cannabis industry in New York State under this legislation has the potential to create significant economic opportunities for New Yorkers and the state, Gov. Cuomo said. Tax collections from the adult-use cannabis program are projected to reach $350 million annually. Additionally, there is the potential for this new industry to create 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs across the state.
“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. After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis isn’t just about creating a new market that will provide jobs and benefit the economy — it’s also about justice for long-marginalized communities and ensuring those who’ve been unfairly penalized in the past will now get a chance to benefit.”
Cannabis is now legal in 15 states and Washington, D.C. Virginia is also expected to move forward with similar legislation; Gov. Ralph Northam has urged state lawmakers to make possessing up to an ounce of marijuana legal by July 1. But selling or possessing cannabis remains a crime in many states and at the federal level.
In 2020, Ezekiel Edwards of the American Civil Liberties Union co-authored a study that found Black and brown people are three times more likely to be arrested for pot possession of cannabis than white people. He also noted that marijuana arrests have risen in recent years in more than a dozen states.
“There is still what we would call a war on marijuana in many places, disproportionately harming communities of color,” Edwards said.