After Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill into law—which he’s expected to do—New York will join more than a dozen other states that have legalized cannabis, including neighboring New Jersey. The state Senate and Assembly hashed out final details in a Tuesday debate. It passed the Senate with a 40-23 vote and the Assembly with a 100 – 49 vote.
New Yorkers won’t be able to immediately purchase marijuana; the state still needs to set up rules around sales and a proposed cannabis board. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes estimated Friday it could take 18 months to two years for sales to start.
Marijuana sales could bring the state, reeling from the monetary impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, about $350 million annually. New York would set a 9% sales tax on cannabis, plus an additional 4% tax split between the county and local government. It would also impose an additional tax based on the level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, ranging from 0.5 cents per milligram for flower to 3 cents per milligram for edibles.
Money from sales could also be used to help the communities disproportionately impacted by years of unequal police enforcement of marijuana laws, said Sen. Liz Krueger, Senate sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate finance committee.
“New York’s program will not just talk the talk on racial justice,” Kreuger said. “It will walk the walk: ending the racially disparate enforcement that was endemic to prohibition, automatically expunging the records of those who were caught up in the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ and channeling 40% of the revenue back into the most hard-hit communities.”
Gov. Cuomo released the following statement Tuesday night:
“Tonight, the New York State Legislature took the first step in a major leap forward for the Empire State by passing legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis. I thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and the many legislators who worked tirelessly on this issue for securing passage of this historic legislation.
“For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences and after years of hard work, this landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public.
“New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy. I look forward to signing this legislation into law.”
As did Attorney General Letitia James
“The legalization of marijuana is a racial and criminal justice imperative, and today’s vote is a critical step towards a fairer and more just system. For too long, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by an outdated and shortsighted marijuana prohibition, and it’s past time we right this wrong. We must also engineer an economy that will provide a much-needed boost to communities devastated by the war on drugs and COVID-19, and I am hopeful this will help to achieve that for New Yorkers.”
The bill would also:
- Eliminate penalties for possession of under three ounces of cannabis, and automatically expunge records of people with past convictions for marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminalized.
- Set up loans, grants, and incubator programs to encourage participation in the cannabis industry by people from minority communities, as well as small farmers, women, and disabled veterans.
- Allow individual New Yorkers to grow up to three mature and three immature plants for personal consumption
- Let local governments opt out of retail sales.