Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana on Wednesday, making New York the 16th state to do so. Cuomo signed the bill a day after it passed in the State Legislature. Parts of the law went into effect immediately, as the New York Timesexplains:
Individuals are now allowed to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational purposes or 24 grams of concentrated forms of the drug, such as oils.
Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse at Vireo Health’s medical marijuana cultivation facility in Johnstown, New York. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
New Yorkers are permitted to smoke cannabis in public wherever smoking tobacco is allowed, though localities and a new state agency could create regulations to more strictly control smoking cannabis in public. Smoking cannabis, however, is not permitted in schools, workplaces or inside a car.
Other changes will go into effect in the coming months when officials create the regulatory framework that will govern every aspect of a brand new, highly regulated market.
The long-awaited legislation legalizes recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over. In addition to permitting the possession of up to three ounces for personal use, it allows adults to grow three mature and three immature plants at a time, and legalizes the sale of weed with a 13 percent sales tax — which the state expects will raise $350 million in tax revenue every year, in addition to providing some 60,000 jobs. New York residents will be able to smoke weed in public wherever cigarette smoking is allowed.
Crucially, the legislation also expunges the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana-related offenses. “My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Liz Krueger, said in a press release.
Of the sales tax revenue, 9 percent will go to the state — of which 40 percent will go to fund education, 40 percent will go to support communities of color that have suffered the most from the war on drugs, and 20 percent will go to fund anti-addiction efforts. The other 4 percent of the sales tax will go to local governments. Though cities, towns, and villages will be able to opt out of allowing weed stores in their communities, those that elect to allow them will be entitled to 75 percent of the local share of the sales tax, with the remaining 25 percent going to the county. Applications for licenses to operate marijuana-related businesses run by women and people of color will be prioritized under the new law.
The law will also allow those who have sold marijuana illegally in the past to have a chance to gain a legal sales license, while limiting the permits for large multi-state marijuana companies already operating medical dispensaries in New York to four additional stores, two of which must be in underserved communities.
“This is a historic day in New York, one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” Cuomo said in a statement.
New York State officials finalized a deal on Thursday to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, paving the way for a potential $4.2 billion industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs and become one of the largest markets in the country.
Following several failed attempts, lawmakers in Albany struck an agreement with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, a move that officials hope will help end years of racially disproportionate policing that saw Black and Hispanic people arrested on low-level marijuana charges far more frequently than white people.
The deal would allow delivery of the drug and permit club-like lounges or “consumption sites” where marijuana, but not alcohol, could be consumed, according to details obtained by The New York Times. It would also allow a person to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home, indoors or outdoors, for personal use.
If approved, the first sales of legal marijuana are likely more than a year away: Officials must first face the daunting task of writing the complex rules that will control a highly regulated market, from the regulation of wholesalers and dispensaries, to the allocation of cultivating and retail licenses, to the creation of new taxes and a five-member control board that would oversee the industry.
A top New York senator is signaling that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has conceded to lawmakers amid ongoing marijuana legalization negotiations on at least two key provisions of proposed legislation that concern home cultivation and social equity funding. The comments come as yet another new poll shows that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support ending cannabis prohibition.
While Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Liz Krueger (D) didn’t explicitly confirm what kind of language was agreed upon, she said in the new radio interview that she’s “extremely pleased with the agreement that we have come to” with the governor when it comes to giving adults a home grow option and how to allocate cannabis tax revenue for social equity purposes.
Her bill—the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA)—would let people grow a limited number of plants for personal use, whereas Cuomo’s reform plan, which he included in his annual budget request, would continue to criminalize people for cultivating their own cannabis. Advocates also prefer the legislature’s approach to social equity funding, which they believe will lead to a steady and ongoing stream of support for communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
Beyond those provisions, Krueger told WCNY radio in the interview that was taped on Wednesday and released Thursday that “700 issues have been resolved, and there’s one or two left, mostly relating to the issues of penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana and how to identify them.”
The legislature has also made clear that, despite the governor’s prior longstanding push to pass legalization through the budget, the issue will be handled as a standalone bill outside of that process. The senator said that while as such lawmakers will not face an April 1 deadline as is the case with the spending legislation, there’s still an urgency to “get it done” sooner rather than later.
“Since I’ve never gotten this close to the deadline before, I’m feeling that there is impetus to get this done as quickly as possible, and I am prepared to do everything in my power to close this out, get this bill to both floors and get it signed by the governor,” she said.
Details of the final legislation might be pending, but polling shows that New Yorkers are ready for cannabis reform. A survey released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday found that 64 percent of New York voters support allowing people to legally possess cannabis for personal use.
There’s been speculation that the growing number of sexual harassment allegations against the governor—in addition to controversy over the state’s handling of nursing home COVID-19 death data—would leave him with less political clout to negotiate on behalf of his proposal over that of the lawmakers.
Krueger said that “you can’t ignore the fact that there was an interest in getting the marijuana bill done” on the governor’s end as these allegations were raised. “That seemed to pop up at around the same time.” However, she caveated, “pick a day and another shoe was dropping for the Cuomo administration.”
Originally, Cuomo personally reached out to legislators about advancing the policy change, but the senator said negotiations have since been handled by senior staff in the administration and legislature.
“We have watched as states far, far more red and conservative than our own have moved down the road into legalization, and we just feel like we’ve talked to everyone in the state of New York,” Krueger said. “Everyone has watched, everybody’s waiting. We have been working our hardest to get a balanced, rational bill out there. We’ve done so—let’s just get it done.”
Another part of the conversation concerned hemp regulations. The WCNY reporter asked about about current restrictions on the sale of hemp flower and whether those would be removed under her marijuana legislation. The senator said she believes they will—but the measure also gives some authority to regulators on implementation decisions and so it’s not clearly exactly what the rules will end up being.
Cannabis policy has been a hot topic in New York in recent days, with multiple lawmakers—as well as Cuomo—expressing optimism that a deal will be reached to reconcile their competing legalization proposals.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said this week that while talks had “reached a little bit of an impasse” over a provision related to impaired driving, she’s feel encouraged that “it will be resolved sooner than later.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) similarly said that he thinks “the executive is moving closer to where” the sponsors of the MRTA are.
Cuomo said on Monday that the sides are “very close” to reaching a deal. “We’ve tried to do that for the past three years, we have to get it done this year.”
Public defender and activist Eli Northrup said on Monday that he’s heard from sources that Cuomo is pushing to have the legislation make it so police could continue to justify stops and searches based on the odor of cannabis alone, regardless of its legalization. Advocates strongly oppose that policy.
On Tuesday morning, however, Scott Hechinger, a senior attorney with the Brooklyn Defender Services, said signals indicate that the pushback to that proposal was being felt by negotiations working on the cannabis legislation.
A Siena College survey released on Monday found that 59 percent of residents support adult-use legalization, compared to 33 percent who are opposed.
“We’ve been working on a marijuana bill. I’ve had a number of conversations with members,” the governor said last week. “We’ve been making good progress.”
Krueger also said recently that lawmakers were “working hard on a three-way agreed upon bill that could pass the legislature before we get to the budget.” She added: “I feel like we are 95 percent there. We have taken some big steps towards getting this done.”
A state budget spokesperson said that the “administration is working with all parties to pass a comprehensive regulatory structure for adult-use cannabis that prioritizes social equity, social justice, economic development, and the public health and safety of all New Yorkers.”
Cuomo proposed amendments to his legislation last month that he hoped would address certain concerns from lawmakers and advocates. The changes primarily concern that issues such as social equity funding and criminal penalties for underage marijuana possession.
Another factor working against Cuomo is that Democrats now have supermajority control over the legislature, which could empower them to override a potential veto if they were to pass the MRTA against the governor’s wishes.
Legislators heard testimony during the joint session from two pro-legalization industry representatives and one opponent. Despite their ideological differences when it comes to legalization in general, all three panelists were critical of Cuomo’s reform proposal. The two reform advocates said they would prefer to advance the MRTA over his legislation.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D)—who would become governor is Cuomo were to resign or be impeached—told Marijuana Moment in a January interview that there would be room for revisions to the current governor’s plan, stating that “much of it is going to be negotiated with the legislature, and all these details can be resolved with their input as well.”
Cuomo said that the changes in his bill reflect “the conversations we’ve had, but I’m hopeful that we can come to an agreement and we can get it done. He added that he believes, “because I’ve seen this movie before, “if we don’t get it done by April 1, we won’t get it done.”
This is the third year in a row that Cuomo has included a legalization proposal in his budget plan. The last two times, negotiations with the legislature stalled amid disagreements over certain components such as the tax structure for the market and funding for social equity programs.
Regardless of which direction the legislature ultimately goes on this issue, there’s growing recognition in the state that legalization is an inevitability.
The top marijuana advisor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) says cannabis legalization legislation will again be introduced through the state budget in January, with the goal being to enact the reform by April. He also previewed state regulations for hemp-derived CBD products, including allowing infused drinks and food items.
During an interview with Canopy Growth Corp.’s David Culver on the company’s recently launched video series, “Under The Canopy,” Assistant Counsel Axel Bernabe talked about how efforts to legalize marijuana in surrounding states underscore the need for reform in New York. And he said the legislation the governor will be introducing will serve as a “model” for other states, prioritizing social equity and economic development, New York will legalize marijuana by April and regulate CBD infused drinks governors advisor says.
“We’re watching New Jersey closely. We’ve always been confident that we get to this before New Jersey, so if they pass the referendum they still have to have agreement between the governor the Senate over there,” he said, referring to necessary implementing legislation that will need to be approved if voters pass the ballot question. “We’re working on this. We’re going to reintroduce this in our budget in January. We think we can get it done by April 1.”
“If Jersey can beat us to it, then they’ll get the gold star—but I still think we’re going to set the model here.”
Bernabe said he’s especially excited about the public safety and economic development components of the administration’s forthcoming legalization proposal. And he spoke about the need to ensure social equity for communities historically targeted by the war on drugs, adding that there will be some changes from this year’s version in light of other states’ experiences.
“I would say equity pervades the entirety of the bill. It pervades it on the licensing front, it’s on the revenue side and the use of funds and providing capital and loans,” he said.
Also in the interview, Bernabe talked about pending regulations for hemp-derived cannabinoids. While those who grow the crop for fiber, seeds and other agricultural purposes are covered under existing rules, he said the administration is “literally putting the final tweaks” on policies for consumer CBD products that will take effect at the beginning of 2021.
“We’re excited because we’ve taken the bull by the horns so to speak. I think people recognize that there are a lot of sectors or product lines that haven’t really had some thorough regulation attached to them,” he said. “You can pick a number of them but probably the most high-profile or obvious ones are something like vapes—so CBD or other cannabinoid extract vapes. Flower, even some tinctures, and foods and beverages.”
“How do you regulate that? What are the parameters around it? What’s permissible? What’s not?” he said. “We dug deep. I don’t know that we’ll get everything right. We had to make some calls.
The administration official offered an example of a regulation they’re likely to pursue that other states have avoided: creating rules for cannabinoid-infused drinks and food items.
“We think of this in terms of consumer protection. Those products are already out there. There’s no sense in trying to pretend they’re not,” he said, adding that one way they’re planning to ensure those protections is to set a maximum 25 milligram CBD dose per serving.
“We’re really doing it across the board on this,” Bernabe said. “We’re really looking at every product class and trying to strike a balance between consumer protection and letting people have what they’re obviously using extensively for health and wellness.”
As the administration finalizes those rules, the state’s hemp industry also recently got some news about broader regulations. Since a congressional continuing rider signed by the president last month extends the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program for the crop until next September, the New York Agriculture Department said it will similarly allow hemp businesses to continue to operate under the existing program until September 30, 2021.
“With so much uncertainty right now, we applaud the department’s move to extend these rules,” Allan Gandelman, president of the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association, said in a press release on Wednesday.
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New York looked poised to legalize marijuana in 2020. Then COVID struck. What’s next?
This is part of a Syracuse University student-driven reporting project through the NewsHouse website that is being published in USA TODAY Network. It takes a deep look at marijuana issues in New York as the state’s drug laws remain in flux.
Count legal marijuana in New York among the victims of COVID-19, along with the hundreds of millions in tax dollars and thousands of jobs legalization might have generated.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on the last day of March that the state’s spring legislative session was “effectively over” after several state lawmakers tested positive for the coronavirus.
They came back in June to address COVID-related issues, but didn’t address other outstanding issues.
Among the unfinished items Cuomo said would have to wait until next year was the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use. Of the eight other states that were poised to legalize pot this year, only three appeared on track for legal weed in 2020.
Cuomo’s pronouncement of legalization’s demise was a turn of events given that, just a few weeks earlier, New York appeared all but certain to legalize marijuana as a way of raising revenue, lowering incarceration rates and getting a piece of a rapidly growing business sector.
Cuomo himself vowed to make legalization a priority during his State of the State address in January.
And although some opposition still remains in the state and a similar effort failed in 2019, people across New York expressed support for Cuomo’s plan.
The NewsHouse also reached out to New York state lawmakers in March.
Of the 20 who responded, five were against legalization, one undecided and 14 were in favo,
“It makes no sense to me that cannabis & alcohol are treated differently under the law when cannabis poses less health risks than alcohol, is less addictive and there is no empirical evidence suggesting that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ to other types of drug use,” said state Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, Ulster County.
How COVID-19 derailed legal marijuana in NY
With so much support, what went wrong? The culprit appears to be the same thing upending life everywhere – the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, D-Bronx, has been a strident supporter of legalization. Yet he acknowledged that COVID-19 made a proper policy discussion about legalization impossible for now.
Eventually, he thinks marijuana will be legal for adult recreational use in New York. The corona virus may have slowed that effort, but it has also made it more certain than ever, he said.
“Ultimately, when the storm settles, we are going to have to deal with it one way or another,” Sepúlveda said.
“We are going to pass some form of legalization, and you know what, when you consider the incredible deficits that we are going to have as a result of corona, all revenue streams are going to have to be considered … including gambling, online gambling and things of that nature,” he added.
What college students say about NY’s legal weed odds
Syracuse University policy studies freshman Lexi Whitcomb worries the opposite might be true.
“It has been seen as an evil,” the Connecticut native said of marijuana. “And I know a lot of lawmakers are older. So if they have that traditional view about it, they might be still thinking about that and the effects of it being negative as a drug.”
Whitcomb supports legalization and agrees with Sepúlveda that the economy will need a boost after COVID, as does freshman Allison Boschetti of New Jersey. Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.
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“Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is taking a huge toll on our economy, and the legalization of marijuana could help to build up our economy again,” said Boschetti, who studies public relations.
She added that it’s “foolish to delay this when legalization will inevitably happen.”
But more than economics, Boschetti supports legalization of Marijuana as a social justice issue, citing the toll the war on drugs has taken on urban and minority communities — an argument made by many lawmakers in support of the law.
Economics senior Luis Solano supports legalization but said it was a smart decision to delay in the light of the COVID outbreak so the state could focus on stopping the virus.
In his home state of California, Solano said having weed legal has been a benefit.
“People are definitely less on edge about buying marijuana,” he said. He added that marijuana is “one less thing for law enforcement to worry about,” although he said regulation of driving under the influence is a problem.
New Yorker Dashawn Austin, a marketing and advertising student, said he supports legalization and is understanding of the delay. “I just don’t want it to slip through the cracks,” he added.
But Austin thought legalization might affect campus culture, hoping that university police would worry about it less.
“I don’t think that marijuana should still be illegal,” said Haley Francois, a first-year accounting from Scotia, New York.
“So if a politician thought it should stay illegal, I wouldn’t vote for them.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that legalizing recreational marijuana likely won’t be included in the state’s budget, dealing a blow to the cannabis industry companies that have invested a significant amount of time, money, and resources preparing for the rush of the state’s millions of adult consumers into the legalized market.
Cuomo was asked by a reporter on Tuesday about marijuana legalization — one of the key initiatives he laid out in his budget address on January 21 — in his daily press briefing on the state’s coronavirus response.
“It’s not likely,” Cuomo said. “Too much, too little time.”
The New York state budget is due on April 1. The state legislature must approve the package before midnight.
In normal times, the state budget is seen by lawmakers as a way to eschew the traditional, intensive process that bills must go through to become law by forcing key issues into the budget.
Last week, Cuomo said he was still intent on legalizing marijuana through the budget, but those priorities have shifted as confirmed cases of coronavirus and deaths mount in New York state. New York City has emerged as the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic in recent days, with one person dying as a result of the virus approximately every six minutes.
New York exceeded 75,000 cases on Tuesday, with 1,550 deaths — up from 1,218 on Monday, Cuomo said.
New York state Democrats had tried to put adult-use cannabis legalization in last year’s budget, but negotiations broke down shortly before the deadline over how the tax revenue from marijuana sales would be spent.
Many in the cannabis industry were hopeful New York would pass legalization this year. Legalizing adult-use cannabis would provide a rare positive tailwind for an industry that has seen a wave of layoffs and executive turnover, and had the market caps of some of its most visible companies slashed by over 90% in recent months.
Justin Flagg, the spokesperson for Sen. Liz Krueger, who, along with Rep. Crystal Peoples-Stokes, is one of the key voices on marijuana legalization in the New York state assembly, told Cannabis Wire the “plan B remains the same.”
“If it can’t get done in the budget in the middle of a public health crisis that is also a fiscal crisis, there is no reason the legislature can’t negotiate and pass a nation-leading legalization model when the immediate crisis is over,” Flagg said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York outlined his 2019 agenda, which included a push to legalize recreational marijuana and a call to address injustices that have “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.”
Credit – Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
By Vivian Wang -Dec. 17, 2018
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he would push to legalize recreational marijuana next year, a move that could generate more than $1.7 billion in sales annually and put New York in line with several neighboring states.
The highly anticipated proposal came in a speech in Manhattan on Monday, in which the governor outlined his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term. Mr. Cuomo framed the speech as a reflection on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt — the former president who was once a New York governor himself — would do today, mixing sweeping rhetoric about American ideals with grim warnings about the Trump administration.
The speech, which seemed delivered with a national audience in mind, could prolong slow-burning speculation about Mr. Cuomo’s presidential ambitions. It also showed, in striking detail, the governor’s leftward evolution in his eight years in office, from a business-friendly centrist who considered marijuana a “gateway drug,” to a self-described progressive championing recreational marijuana, taxes on the rich and a ban on corporate political donations.
“The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else,” Mr. Cuomo said before introducing the cannabis proposal, describing the injustice that had “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.
“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” he added.
Ten other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, spending the new tax revenue on a range of initiatives, including schools and transportation.
The idea is expected to win support in Albany, where Democrats captured the State Senate in November. Members of the Assembly, which is dominated by New York City Democrats, have supported such a measure as well.
After November, that excuse vanishes. Mr. Cuomo said so, too: “There are no more excuses, my friends. Now is the time to stand up and lead, and do what you’ve said you were going to do all those years.”
Compared to the other proposals, the marijuana idea received just a passing mention, despite the attention it has captured among policy wonks and average New Yorkers alike. Mr. Cuomo did not describe how he would use the tax revenue that legalization could generate, or offer details about how he would regulate a drug that he had previously made clear he considered dangerous.
He for years rejected allowing even medical marijuana, declaring that its dangers overshadowed its benefits. He continued to oppose it into 2013, before approving a highly limited pilot program in 2014.
After complaints from advocates, the state eased some of those restrictions in 2016. But Mr. Cuomo remained wary, telling reporters as recently as last year that he considered marijuana a “gateway drug.”
It was not until this year that Mr. Cuomo warmed to the idea, saying that the “facts have changed” around the drug and acknowledging its legalization in nearby states: Massachusetts in 2016 and New Jersey now moving to do the same. The governor’s primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, made legalization a central plank of her campaign.
The clearest indication of what legalization might look like in New York may be found in a report issued in July by the state Department of Health, which Mr. Cuomo had empowered to study the issue. The commission, which the governor convened in January, concluded that the benefits of taxing and regulating the drug outweighed any negative effects.
Legalization could bring in between $248 million and $677 million in new tax revenue in its first year, the report said. In addition, it could also ease the opioid crisis and mitigate racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
A Quinnipiac University poll in May showed that 63 percent of New Yorker’s favored legalizing marijuana.
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