STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.— A bill to legalize adult-use of marijuana now given the go-ahead by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is estimated to generate 30,000 to 60,000 jobs, and will address the way in which licenses to operate in the state-regulated industry will be delved out.
While adult-use already has been legalized in New Jersey and Massachusetts, the process in Albany had been slower-moving as some lawmakers fought for a more progressive social-equity-based approach to encourage individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement to participate in the growing industry.
“There were many important aspects of this legislation that needed to be addressed correctly — especially the racial disparities that have plagued our state’s response to marijuana use and distribution, as well as ensuring public safety…” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers/White Plains).
Municipalities in New York, which includes New York City, would have the option of opting-out of a legalized market.
Cuomo has said the industry is estimated to generate about $350 million in tax revenue.
HOW WOULD IT BE REGULATED?
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) would first establish an Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).
The OCM would be governed by a five-member board— three appointed by the governor and one by each house— placed in charge of enforcing regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis. It would operate as an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority.
The bill would expand on the list of conditions to qualify for medical marijuana, while increasing the number of caregivers allowed per patient, and permit home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients.
For adult-use business owners, a two-tier licensing structure would separate growers and processors from also owning retail stores, to allow for a larger pool of producers from a range of backgrounds to participate and potentially benefit financially.
A social and economic equity program is aimed at offering 50% of business licenses to minority or woman-owned business, service-disabled veterans or distressed farmers, according to a press release late Saturday night from Cuomo’s office.
“For generations, too many New Yorkers have been unfairly penalized for the use and sale of adult-use cannabis, arbitrarily arrested and jailed with harsh mandatory minimum sentences, Cuomo said. “After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York state.”
Under the bill, reduced penalties would be implemented for possession and sale of marijuana.
It also would create automatic expungement or re-sentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal.
Sales tax on recreational cannabis products would be set at 13%, of which 9% would go to the state and 4% to localities, sources have said.
All cannabis tax revenue would be deposited in a New York state cannabis revenue fund.
Proceeds would cover reasonable costs to administer the program and implement the law, with the remaining revenue split three ways:
· 40% toward education
· 40% toward a Community Grants Reinvestment Fund
· 20% toward a Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund
The legislation would make driving while impaired by marijuana a violation in lieu of a misdemeanor.
It also would facilitate a controlled research study designed to evaluate methodologies and technologies for the detection of cannabis-impaired driving.
After completion of the research, the state Department of Health could create and implement rules and regulations to approve and certify a test for the presence of marijuana in drivers.
The bill also includes additional funding for drug recognition experts and law enforcement to detect motorists impaired by cannabis.