New York reaches agreement on legalizing recreational marijuana, expansion of existing medical marijuana programs

With baited breath New Yorkers have been awaiting their legislators to come to an agreement on the legalization of marijuana – one that would lead to massive amounts of tax revenue for the state, but more importanly create an estimated 50,000 jobs.

That day has come.

On the table were a number of major issues that needed to be resolved or clarified. An Office of Cannabis Management will be established “…to implement a comprehensive regulatory framework that would cover medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp.” This independent office would a licensing approach that would separate processors and growers in one group, and entrepeneurs who own retail shops in another.

New York, which already had marijuana programs wanted to expand them with a social equity program to ensure no one starting a marijuana business is disproportionately affected or discouraged from diving in. For these groups – minorities, distressed farmers, women, and service-disabled veterans – a goal will be set to insure that 50% of licenses go to them.

“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,” New York’s Gov. Cuomo said.

Supervising attorney of the Community Justice Unit at The Legal Aid Society, Anthony Posada, and supervising attorney of the Racial Justice Unit, Anne Oredeko, released a joint statement about social justice coming in the form of expunging conviction records “…that have curtailed the opportunities of countless predominately young Black and Latinx New Yorkers, and delivers economic justice to ensure that communities who have suffered the brunt of aggressive and disparate marijuana enforcement are first in line to reap the economic gain.”

The state will benefit in the tune of approximately $350 million in tax collections annually. The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act would add a 13% tax to retail sales for state and local tax revenue and after “costs” would be split three-ways with 40% going to a Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, 40% towards education, and the remaining 20$ benefiting a Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund.

How does this trickle down to the local government level? They can simply pass a low to opt-out of allowing retail dispensaries in their community. They have until the end of the year or “9 months after the effectove date of the legislation.” However, since the state has decided to allow adult-use, they can’t opt out of that.

States expected to follow New York’s footsteps this year are New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Virginia who either already have legislation in process, or have plans to do so. Currently only 15 states have fully legalized marijuana use. While it’s clear that most of the country has softened their attitude toward marijuna in some shape or form only Idaho has maintained a hardline stance. In fact, state lawmakers there are doing their darndest to bar the legalization of marijuana or psychedelics by proposing a constitutional amendment. Nebraska has decriminalized marijuana (up to 1lb is a misdemeanor) but it is still illegal for both medical and recreation use.

The Biden Administration has taken the same approach as Idaho legislators in stiff-arming the adult use of marijuana, recently asking several staffers to resign, suspending a few or asking them to work remotely based on the results of recent background checks. Despite Gallup poll showing that 68% of America favors legalizing marijuana recreationally, the President himself is only in favor of decriminalizing it suggesting a turning of a blind eye to what most of America wants.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, appointed by President Biden, has publically stated that he believes that the Department of Justice should not be using its resources to prosecute people who are in compliance with state marijuana laws.

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