A majority of New Yorkers support it. And the state needs the prospective tax revenues.
Therefore, after years of trying, legislators who support marijuana legalization were able to guide bills through both the state Senate and Assembly. On March 31, Governor Andrew Cuomo—once resolutely opposed to legalization—signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
New York thus became the 16th state to legalize cannabis use for those 21 and over.
According to a press release by the governor’s office: “The bill establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to implement a comprehensive regulatory framework that covers medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp. The bill also expands New York State’s existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp programs. The legislation provides licensing for marijuana producers, distributors, retailers and other actors in the cannabis market, and creates a social and economic equity program to assist individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement that want to participate in the industry.”
The governor estimated that tax revenues can reach $350 million, and up to 60,000 jobs can be created as a consequence of the new law.
“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.
Law Provisions: the following comes from the press release:
• Will allow people with a larger list of medical conditions to access medical marijuana, increase the number of caregivers allowed per patient and permit home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients.
• Allows for a large range of licensed producers by separating those growers and processors from also owning retail stores. Implements strict quality control, public health and consumer protections. Creates a goal of 50 percent of licenses to go to a minority- or woman-owned business enterprise, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry.
• Cannabis taxes will be deposited in a state cannabis revenue fund. Revenue covers reasonable costs to administer the program and implement the law. The remaining funding will be split three ways: 40 percent to education; 40 percent to Community Grants Reinvestment Fund; and 20 percent to Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund. A 9 percent state excise tax on the sale of cannabis will be imposed. The local excise tax rate will be 4 percent of the retail price. Counties will receive 25 percent of the local retail tax revenue and 75 percent will go to the municipality.
• Cities, towns and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization.
• The New York State Department of Health will work with institutions of higher education to conduct a controlled research study designed to evaluate methodologies and technologies for the detection of cannabis-impaired driving. After completion of the research study, DOH may create and implement rules and regulations to approve and certify a test for the presence of cannabis in drivers.
• Includes additional funding for drug recognition experts and law enforcement to ensure safe roadways. The use of cannabis by drivers will remain prohibited and will carry the same penalties as it does currently.
• Allows up to 3 ounces cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate outside of the home. Amends limits of what is permitted in the home, which must be kept in a secure location away from children. Permits three mature plants and three immature plants for adults over 21 and six mature plants and six immature plants maximum per household.
• Reduced penalties will be implemented for possession and sale. Creates automatic expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal under the law and provides necessary funding
The press release concludes, “In 2018, the Department of Health, under Governor Cuomo’s direction, conducted a multi-agency study, which concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found that decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.”
As of press time, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran did not reply for a request for comment. But in a previous interview with Anton Media Group she made her opposition to legalization known.
Town of Hempstead spokesman Greg Blower said in a statement: “The town board is united in its opposition to the sale of recreational marijuana and also stands firmly against ‘on premises’ consumption of marijuana at facilities within the Town of Hempstead.”
Town of Oyster Bay spokesperson Marta Kane said the town attorney’s office is studying the law and the town board has strictly zoned dispensaries.
On Jan. 8, 2019, North Hempstead voted to ban the sale of recreational marijuana.
North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink, who is running for supervisor this November, told Anton Media Group, “The town has already enacted legislation to not only limit the number of medical marijuana facilities in the town and to limit it where they could be located, but to ban the sale of recreational marijuana within the town. To the extent that the state passes, any sort of legalization of recreational marijuana, unless they specifically seek to overturn the town’s code, the town code will remain in effect, and I support it. I’m against recreational marijuana.”
Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro noted that the Nassau County Village Officials Association (NCVOA) had come out against legalization back in 2019, when it failed passage and the sentiment remains,
“We’re still digesting the bill. But my sense is that the VOA and most mayors are opposed for the same basic reasons as the last bill. This bill has some differences but the basics are the same. It’s very concerning based on the anticipated negative quality of life aspects, even though most villages don’t have the same issues to deal with as the county or villages with police departments.”
“If passed, the proposed legislation will negatively affect almost every aspect of village life from economics to public health to law enforcement,” said then NCVOA President and still Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand back in 2019. “NCVOA is steadfast in our opposition to this unwise and harmful legislation.”