Cuomo And New York State Lawmakers Announce Deal To Legalize Marijuana

Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers formally announced a final deal on legislation to legalize marijuana in New York State late Saturday night.

The bill—called the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act—would permit adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana, grow the plant in their home, and divert funds to education and drug treatment.

It would also create a cannabis management office and a regulatory framework that would cover adult-use, medical marijuana, and cannabinoid hemp, the latter which includes CBD products. (Existing medical and cannabinoid hemp products programs would be expanded under the legislation.) A social and economic equity aspect of the bill aims to help people harmed by marijuana prohibition enforcement get into the upcoming business.

“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 in a statement. “After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State.”

The governor’s office says the adult-use program is expected to bring in $350 million in taxes each year as well as create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs statewide. Retail sales of marijuana would include a state sales tax of 9%. Localities’ sales tax would be 4%, with counties getting one-quarter of tax revenue and three-quarters would go to the municipality.

Under the bill, 40% of the revenues would go towards education, 40% to community reinvestment grants to communities harmed by criminalization of drugs, and 20% to drug treatment and public education programs.

Lawmakers are expected to pass the bill this coming week, after hammering out an agreement with Cuomo late last week.

One of the legislation’s sponsors, Manhattan State Senator Liz Krueger, said in a statement, “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.”

She added, “I believe we have achieved that in this bill, as well as addressing the concerns and input of stakeholders across the board. When this bill becomes law, New York will be poised to implement a nation-leading model for what marijuana legalization can look like.”

The deal on the legislation was reached after years of talks about legalizing cannabis use. It also comes as Cuomo faces multiple investigations and an impeachment inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment and a cover-up of nursing home deaths.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who has called for the governor to resign due to his alleged inappropriate behavior, said in a statement about the weed bill that she’s “proud we have reached the finish line.”

“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,” Stewart-Cousins said.