NY state passes bill legalizing recreational marijuana

Marijuana

Despite the last-minute opposition, NY is poised to become the 16th state in the U.S.to allow regulated marijuana sales following a three-way deal between legislative leaders and the Cuomo administration after years of stalled efforts.

With Cuomo's approval, possession becomes legal immediately for those age 21 and over.

Under the new legislation, New Yorkers over 21 can legally possess up to three ounces (85 grams) of cannabis and can grow up to 12 plants per household.

"New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy", Cuomo said in a statement shortly after the bill passed both Houses. "I look forward to signing this legislation into law". The agency, to be called the Office of Cannabis Management, will set guidelines and issue licenses necessary for New Yorkers to distribute, process, farm, open dispensaries and consumption locations.

After covering the state's costs of regulation and enforcement, tax revenues would go to schools, drug treatment and prevention programs and a fund for investing in job skills, adult education, mental health and other services in communities that bore the brunt of the national and state drug war.

Adults of that age can have up to three ounces of marijuana in their possession.

"For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences", Cuomo added.

"New Mexicans may not have to wait much longer to reap the benefits and justice cannabis legalization will provide-especially to Hispanic/Latinx, Black, Native and Indigenous communities, who have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition", she said.

According to the bill, NY will seek to have 50 percent of marijuana licenses go to underrepresented communities, and it will provide protection for people from being discriminated against for marijuana use in public housing, schools and colleges, and the workplace. An existing medical-marijuana program would be expanded.

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Mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio said the bill long overdue, tweeting 'This is about righting a wrong.

Still, Republicans and a handful of Democrats who oppose legalization said Tuesday they remain concerned that the bill will tie law enforcement's hands and send the message to children that the drug is OK.

For years, Cuomo's administration sought to legalize cannabis, which could eventually bring in upwards of $350 million annually for the state.

Passed after several years of stalled efforts, the measure makes NY the 16th state to legalize adult use of the drug, though South Dakota's measure is in legal limbo. "Through this sweeping legislation, NY is delivering reforms that place community reinvestment, social equity, and justice at the core of the law".

In the November 2020 election, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, Mississippi and South Dakota approved cannabis reform measures while a national Gallup Poll released that same month revealed almost seven in 10 respondents approve of federal legalization, a record high.

"Fifty percent is a very high bar to try to reach, but if it happens, it would be awesome", said Hillary Peckham, chief operator of Etain Health, a women-owned NY medical cannabis company that is considering applying for a recreational marijuana license.

"We have literally destroyed the lives of multiple thousands of people", Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said.

"While it did take a lot of time, we're making it happen today", she said. "We expect 2021 to be a record-breaking year for legislatures legalizing cannabis".

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