New York lawmakers passed a law to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday, and Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would sign it.
The Senate voted 40-23 to pass the laws. Later that evening, the State Assembly voted 100-49 for the bill.
If the bill is signed, the Empire State, along with the District of Columbia, will be the 15th state in the country to legalize the drug for recreational use.
“For too long, the cannabis ban has disproportionately targeted color communities with harsh sentences, and after years of hard work, this landmark piece of legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that is growing the economy, and creates significant security for the public” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement Tuesday evening after the bill was passed.
“I look forward to including this legislation in the law,” he said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supported legislation based on racial justice. “I think this bill goes a long way. I think there is still a lot to be done, but there is a long way to go,” said de Blasio, according to WDTV ABC 11.
Black and Latin American New Yorkers together accounted for 94% of marijuana-related arrests by the New York City Police Department in 2020, although city statistics show that the proportion of white New Yorkers who use marijuana is significantly higher than that Latino or black residents. According to a survey by the New York Department of Health, 24% of white residents reported using marijuana, compared with 14% of black and 12% of Latin American residents in the 2015-2016 biennium, the latest available data.
Weed legalization vote comes after neighboring New Jersey state recently legalized the plant. The aim of the legislature was to pass the law as part of the state budget before April 1st.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Congregation Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. The Senators debated for three hours, with Republicans claiming the bill was dangerous and not what all New Yorkers wanted.
“We met endlessly with everyone who asked us,” replied Krueger during the procedure. “The truth is, I’m not sure I have ever met such a diverse group of people as in the seven years my chief of staff and I worked on this bill.”
The legalization is expected to ultimately generate billions in revenue for the state, and New York City in particular, with a hefty 13% tax that includes a 9% state tax and 4% local tax. The measure also includes a potency tax of up to 3 cents per milligram of THC, the natural psychoactive component of marijuana that supplies the plant high.
An estimate by Cuomo’s office predicts that annual tax revenues from legal weed sales could add $ 350 million a year and 60,000 jobs to the state once the industry is fully established.
The measure allows possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana and 24 ounces of marijuana concentrate, and allows up to six plants to be grown at home.
The legislation also provides equity programs to provide loans and grants to people, including smallholders, disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
“My goal in implementing this legislation has always been to end the racially diverse enforcement of the marijuana ban that has weighed so heavily on color communities in our state, and to use the economic wind of legalization to heal and repair those same communities to contribute. ” “Said Kruger in a press release.
“I’ve seen such injustices and for young people whose lives have been destroyed because they did something I did as a kid,” Krueger said as she recorded her voice for the measure. “Nobody put a gun to my head and nobody tried to put me in jail for being that nice white girl.”
Some officials are even calling for the bill to fund universal basic income programs and home ownership for communities hardest hit by the drug war.
“With the impending legalization of marijuana, we have the opportunity to legislate locally to bring the concept of redress through a UBI and home ownership to life for Rochester and its families,” said Rochester, New York, Mayor Lovely Warren of Rochesterfirst .com.
The bill will clear the criminal records of tens of thousands of people, aim to reinvest 40% in color communities, and give 50% of adult use licenses to social justice applicants and small business owners.
The law also “creates a well-regulated industry to ensure that consumers know exactly what they are getting when they buy cannabis”.
The move creates a cannabis management bureau, which is an independent agency working with the New York State Liquor Authority. The agency would be in charge of regulating the recreational cannabis market and existing medical cannabis programs. The agency would also be overseen by a cannabis oversight committee made up of five members – three appointed by the governor and one each appointed by the Senate and the State Assembly.
Police groups and the New York Parent-Teacher Association have openly expressed concern about the bill.
“Absolute travesty. All of the research submitted shows it’s harmful to children and makes the streets less safe,” said Kyle Belokopitsky, New York State PTA Executive Director, ABC 7 New York. “And I have absolutely no idea what lawmakers think when they think they want this to happen now.”
New York officials are launching an education and prevention campaign to reduce the risk of cannabis use in school-age children, and schools can participate in drug prevention and awareness programs. The state will also start a study looking at the effects of cannabis on driving.
The law allows municipalities to pass laws that prohibit cannabis dispensaries and consumption licenses. The deadline is nine months after legalization.
If the bill is signed, legalization of the facility would take effect immediately, but legal recreational sales would not be expected to begin for a year or two.
– CNBC’s Lynne Pate contributed to this report.