Recreational Marijuana Is Now Legal In New York

By Matt Stieb, Chas Danner, and Margaret Hartmann

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legal­iz­ing recre­ation­al mar­i­jua­na on Wednesday, mak­ing New York the 15th state to do so. Cuomo signed the bill a day after it passed in the State Legislature. Parts of the law went into effect imme­di­ate­ly, as the New York Times explains Individuals are now allowed to pos­sess up to three ounces of cannabis for recre­ation­al pur­pos­es or 24 grams of con­cen­trat­ed forms of the drug, such as oils.

New Yorkers are per­mit­ted to smoke cannabis in pub­lic wher­ev­er smok­ing tobac­co is allowed, though local­i­ties and a new state agency could cre­ate reg­u­la­tions to more strict­ly con­trol smok­ing cannabis in pub­lic. Smoking cannabis, how­ev­er, is not per­mit­ted in schools, work­places, or inside a car. Other changes will go into effect in the com­ing months when offi­cials cre­ate the reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work that will gov­ern every aspect of a brand new, high­ly reg­u­lat­ed market.

The long-await­ed leg­is­la­tion legal­izes recre­ation­al mar­i­jua­na for adults 21 and over. In addi­tion to per­mit­ting the pos­ses­sion of up to three ounces for per­son­al use, it allows adults to grow three mature and three imma­ture plants at a time and legal­izes the sale of weed with a 13 per­cent sales tax — which the state expects will raise $350 mil­lion in tax rev­enue every year, in addi­tion to pro­vid­ing some 60,000 jobs. The leg­is­la­tion also expunges the crim­i­nal records of peo­ple con­vict­ed of mar­i­jua­na-relat­ed offens­es. “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,” the bill’s Senate spon­sor, Liz Krueger, said in a press release.

Of the sales tax rev­enue, 9 per­cent will go to the state — of which 40 per­cent will go to fund edu­ca­tion, 40 per­cent will go to sup­port com­mu­ni­ties of col­or that have suf­fered the most from the war on drugs, and 20 per­cent will go to fund anti-addic­tion efforts. The oth­er 4 per­cent of the sales tax will go to local gov­ern­ments. Though cities, towns, and vil­lages will be able to opt-out of allow­ing weed stores in their com­mu­ni­ties, those that elect to allow them will be enti­tled to 75 per­cent of the local share of the sales tax, with the remain­ing 25 per­cent going to the coun­ty. Applications for licens­es to oper­ate mar­i­jua­na-relat­ed busi­ness­es run by women and peo­ple of col­or will be pri­or­i­tized under the new law.

The law will also allow those who have sold mar­i­jua­na ille­gal­ly in the past to have a chance to gain a legal sales license while lim­it­ing the per­mits for large mul­ti-state mar­i­jua­na com­pa­nies already oper­at­ing med­ical dis­pen­saries in New York to four addi­tion­al stores, two of which must be in under­served communities.

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.

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