There have been more than enough fits and starts, but it appears that New York is finally going to legalize cannabis for adult use. It has been widely reported that Governor Andrew Cuomo and representatives from the New York Senate and Assembly negotiated over the weekend to reach a deal on New York State Senate Bill S854A. The Bill is expected to be put to a vote later this week.
The amended “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” legalizes cannabis for those 21 and over and has a strong social equity focus. Some of the highlights include the automatic expungement of criminal records for certain marijuana offenses, distribution of cannabis revenue (40% to reinvestment in communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, 40% to public education, and 20% to drug treatment, prevention and education), and the creation of a new office to oversee the cannabis market. In a statement, lead sponsor Senator Liz Kreuger said the agreement will “legalize adult-use cannabis in a way that foregrounds racial justice, while balancing safety and economic growth, encouraging new small businesses, and significantly diminishing the illegal market…When this bill becomes law, New York will be poised to implement a nation-leading model for what marijuana legalization can look like.” Co-sponsor and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said that it “provides long awaited marijuana justice for New Yorkers, and makes significant steps and investments to begin to address the generational devastation caused by marijuana prohibition and mass incarceration.”
Spirits are high in New York, and rightfully so. But as other states (particularly Illinois) have shown, passing legislation is the easy part. While many factions share the broad goal of passing adult use reform, interests oftentimes diverge in implementation. It will be up to the new overseeing office, legislators, and regulators to craft rules and regulations that balance the competing interests of the various stakeholders. And it will be up to the stakeholders to work with each other for the common good. None of it will be easy, but we look forward to participating in that process going forward.
Please stay tuned to our blog for updates on New York and any other material cannabis-related developments.