New York Senate set to take up pot legalization deal

New York News

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP/WIVB) — Lawmakers in New York are set to debate and consider a bill Tuesday that would legalize marijuana sales to people over the age of 21.

Legislative leaders in the state Senate plan to start debating the bill as early as 3 p.m. on Tuesday, with a vote expected later on in the evening. Assembly spokesperson Mike Whyland said the lower chamber expects to take up the bill Tuesday after the Senate.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes says she believes legalizing the drug will create a lot of opportunities for people in the Empire State. “I think the results are going to be transformative not just for a lot of people’s lives,” Peoples-Stokes said. “I think for a lot of communities across the state of New York. And a lot of jobs will be created. And a lot of people will have access to a business that they never had before. So, I’m excited about it.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top Democrats in the Assembly and Senate announced Saturday they reached an agreement to expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program, allow individual New Yorkers to grow six plants for personal consumption, and set up a licensing and taxation system for recreational sales.

It has taken years for the state’s lawmakers to come to a consensus on how to legalize recreational marijuana amid debates over impaired driving and where to direct revenues. Democrats, who now wield a veto-proof majority in the state Legislature, have made passing it a priority this year. Legalization could eventually bring the state about $350 million annually, according to Cuomo’s administration.

Local governments could opt out of retail sales.

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.

The legislation would take effect immediately if passed, though sales wouldn’t start until New York sets up regulations and a proposed cannabis board. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes has estimated it could take 18 months to two years for sales to start.

Not everyone is excited about marijuana becoming legal. There are major concerns that legalizing pot will lead to more people driving while impaired.

New York would become the 16th state to legalize marijuana sales to adults. New York would become the third state where lawmakers, rather than voters, have approved legalization.

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