New York State lawmakers have given the green light for legalized marijuana possession and paved the way to allow for marijuana sales to people over the age of 21. Gov. Cuomo has said he will sign the legislation.
Late on Tuesday, March 30, the New York State Senate voted 40-23 in favor of the new bill, while the Assembly approved it by a margin of 100-49.
A vote is expected Tuesday or Wednesday to officially legalize recreational marijuana in the state of NY.
Assembly Democratic majoritiy leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill, said, "Unlike any other state in America, this legislation is intentional about equity". "That's what's good about this legislation. We're going to turn around the lives of some of those people and help them to be able to take care of themselves, their families and their communities".
"Tonight, the New York State Legislature took the first step in a major leap forward for the Empire State by passing legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis", he said in a statement.
Observers say New York's move, which follows legalization in neighboring MA and New Jersey, builds momentum for legalization efforts nationwide.
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"Not only did NY state legalize marijuana, but they expunged the records of all those indict don flimsy, nonsensical possession charges".
NY would set a 9% sales tax on cannabis, plus an additional 4% tax split between the county and local government.
An additional tax of five center per milligram for flower, eight center per milligram of concentrate, and three cents per milligram for edibles will be imposed depending on the level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana.
Criminal justice reform groups and advocates for minority communities hard hit by the decades-long war on drugs have hailed the state's bill as particularly sweeping: NY would set a target of ensuring 50% of marijuana licenses go to underrepresented communities and join a handful of states to automatically expunge past marijuana-related convictions.
The law would also eliminate penalties for possession of up to three ounces of the drug (85 grams), the new personal possession limit. A police officer could still use the odor of burnt cannabis as a reason to suspect a driver is intoxicated, but the officer couldn't use that smell alone as justification for searching a vehicle for contraband.
Ben Kovler, chief executive officer of Green Thumb Industries Inc, the second largest US pot producer by market value, said his company will allocate "significant dollars" to the NY market - set to be the second largest legal market after California.
Peoples-Stokes says it could take 18 months to two years for licensed dispensaries to be established and open.
Consumers could then get marijuana deliveries, or visit new social lounges where they could consume marijuana. An existing medical-marijuana program would be expanded. The move comes after multiple failed attempts at legalization in NY, and makes it the 15th state to legalize weed.
The state plans to tax marijuana sales at nine percent, with revenues from an additional four-percent tax divided between local and county government.
Does the law mean every municipality has to allow the sale of marijuana?
New Yorkers will be permitted to smoke in public wherever tobacco smoking is permitted with the exception of near schools and while driving.
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