New York City Adult-Use Cannabis
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Vote to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis in New York Expected This Week

The legislation would allow the sale of adult-use cannabis to individuals 21 years and older.

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March 29, 2021

New York's S.B. S854 would provide the regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis, construct a licensing and taxation system for adult-use sales, create a social and economic equity program to assist individuals unfairly targeted and impacted by cannabis enforcement and expand the state's existing medical cannabis and hemp programs, as noted in a press release on the New York state government website.

Cuomo’s administration projects that legalization could generate 30,000 to 60,000 jobs across New York and that tax collection from the program could reach $350 million annually, the release states.

"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. After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York state," Cuomo said. "Legalizing adult-use cannabis isn't just about creating a new market that will provide jobs and benefit the economy -- it's also about justice for long-marginalized communities and ensuring those who've been unfairly penalized in the past will now get a chance to benefit. I look forward to signing this legislation into law."

According to the release, New York's Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act contains the following provisions:

  • The Office of Cannabis Management would be required to enforce a comprehensive regulatory framework regarding adult-use, medical and cannabinoid hemp, governed by a five-member board, with three members appointed by the governor, one appointed by each house. 
  • It would increase the number of allotted caregivers per patient, allow home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients and permit people with a substantial list of medical conditions to access medical cannabis.
  • The agreement would establish a two-tier licensing structure that would allow for an extensive range of producers by separating processors and growers from owning licensing stores.
  • It would establish a social and economic equity plan to assist individuals impacted by cannabis enforcement. It would also create a goal to have 50% of licenses go to a minority or women-owned business enterprise, service-disabled veterans or distressed farmers.
  • The legislation proposes to establish a new cannabis tax structure. The wholesale excise tax would be moved to the retail level with a 9% state excise tax, the local excise tax would be 4% of the retail price, and counties would receive 25% of the local retail tax revenue with 75% going to the municipality. 
  • The agreement would also permit the sale of hemp flower and smokable hemp forms only when adult-use stores are operating.
  • The agreement would allow for adults 21 years and older to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate outside of their home.
  • The legislation proposes permitting individuals 21 years and older to grow three mature and three immature plants for personal use, with up to six mature and six immature plants per household.

Local governments are permitted to opt-out of retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licensing by Dec. 31, 2021, or nine months after the date the legislation is effective, the release states.

"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,” said Sen. Liz Krueger, the primary sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate Finance Committee, in a March 27 press release. “When this bill becomes law, New York will be poised to implement a nation-leading model for what marijuana legalization can look like."

Melissa Moore, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance commended Sen. Krueger and other lawmakers for making “marijuana reform almost a reality in New York state.”

“Advancing legalization in NY also puts another nail in the coffin of the war on drugs that has devastated so many communities across the state,” Moore said in a press release. "By comprehensively addressing the harms of past criminalization, this legislation will create one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the country. We will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure the best possible outcome for all New Yorkers and look forward to the legislature swiftly passing the bill and the governor's signature on these historic reforms."

Lawmakers could vote on the legislation as early as Tuesday. If passed, it would take effect immediately; however, adult-use sales could take up to two years to begin, as reported by the Associated Press.

According the March 27 press release from Krueger, here are what various stakeholders in New York's adult-use legalization landscape had to say:

Michael Sisitzky, Senior Policy Counsel at NYCLU, said: “New Yorkers have spoken in the streets and at the polls: they demanded that lawmakers dismantle systemic racism, and that begins with how we legalize marijuana. At long last, the legislation announced today will ensure a diverse and inclusive legal marijuana industry and reinvest in the communities of color that have been devastated by the war on drugs, mass incarceration and a legacy of disproportionate arrests for drug possession. The time is now for lawmakers in Albany to repair the damage to Black and Brown New Yorkers whose lives have been needlessly destroyed by racist drug policies across our state for far too long. We expect the legislature to pass this overdue legislation and for Gov. Cuomo to step up, stop the harm and sign it into law without delay.”

Marvin Mayfield, Lead Organizer at Center for Community Alternatives, said: “Finally, we are on the verge of ending a cruel chapter in New York’s racist and devastating war on drugs. Marijuana criminalization has wrought decades of harm on our families and communities. We are proud of the thousands of impacted New Yorkers who have fought for a true end to criminalization, community reinvestment and equity and we applaud the legislators who stood beside us. Now, we call for swift passage by the legislature and a signature by the governor to make this national model a reality.”

Alice Fontier, Managing Director of Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, said: “Today’s victory is a massive step towards ensuring that marijuana legalization in New York reckons with the hideous, racist legacy of criminalization. Since NDS began our work in Harlem 30 years ago, the neighbors we serve have been persecuted under marijuana criminalization for little more than the color of their skin and the amount of money in their bank accounts. Police, prosecutors, child services and ICE have used criminalization as a weapon against them, and the impact this bill will have on the lives of our over-surveilled clients cannot be overstated. We are grateful to the advocates, legislators and impacted people who insisted that legalization reckon with the damage wrought by the war on drugs and ongoing criminalization. We join our neighbors in celebrating this massive step towards racial and economic justice.”