NEW YORK – Residents of the Empire State, New York, who are over the age of 21 will be able to legally buy Cannabis as early as next year, in a bill agreed to by both houses of the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A vote on the measure came this evening, Tuesday night, March 30th.
By the end of next year, over 21 adults can buy cannabis in retail stores, and could also sample it in tasting rooms, similar to wine tasting venues. The law also permits the cultivation privately of plants at home – six per person and up to 12 per household.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said the final measure more closely resembles the bill she and Assembly sponsor, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, had advocated for. It includes a community reinvestment fund for neighborhoods adversely impacted by the decades long prohibition of the drug.
“It will make us the nation’s leading model for marijuana legalization,” said Krueger. “It puts racial justice in the foreground,” she said to Bloomberg news.
50% of the licenses to grow and sell cannabis would be set aside for social equity businesses, which includes communities disproportionately impacted by the failed War on Drugs. This category of applicants would have access to loans, grants, and an incubator programs. The funds will come from a 13 percent sales tax to be charged on the sale of cannabis.
NY State tax revenues are projected to reach $350 million dollars a year. This money would be split between the community reinvestment fund, public education, and efforts to combat drug addiction.The legislation further decriminalizes possession of cannabis, eliminating penalties for having 3 ounces or less of cannabis, or storing up to 5 pounds at home. It also would expunge the records for people with previous convictions for amounts that are no longer criminalized.
The law takes steps to stop people driving under the influence of cannabis, and local law enforcement agencies would get money to hire and train drug recognition experts. The bill does acknowledge that it’s difficult to measure whether the drug is influencing driving behaviors so it sets up a research study to find ways to better detect whether a driver is impaired by a cannabis product.
Local governments will have the choice of banning retail stores and the cannabis tasting rooms, as long as they opt-out by the end of this year.