New York has become the 17th state in the U.S. to legalize adult-use cannabis.
On Wednesday, March 31, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis and expand New York’s medical program.
Medical cannabis has been legal in the state since July 2014, when Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act.
The new legislation creates a licensing system for cannabis producers, distributors, retailers, and other essential industry roles.
According to the Governor’s Office, the industry can potentially create up to 60,000 jobs across the state.
“Passage of this bill will mean not just legalizing marijuana, but also investing in education and our communities, and it brings to an end decades of disproportionately targeting people of color under state and federal drug laws,” says Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “My colleagues and I knew it was important to do this the right way—in a way that would include those targeted and frequently excluded from the process. Now, this legal industry will create jobs across our state, including for those who have had their lives upended by years of unjust drug laws.”
The new law establishes the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which will enforce both adult-use and medical cannabis regulations.
The OCM will operate independently as part of the New York State Liquor Authority, governed by a five-member board.
The governor will appoint three members, and the state’s two legislative houses will each appoint one.
Rules and Regs
The new law expands New York’s medical cannabis program to increase the number of caregivers allowed per patient, permit home cultivation, and increase the number of qualifying conditions,
Cannabis products will be taxed per milligram of THC rather than by weight under the new law.
Tax revenue from sales of adult-use cannabis products will cover the costs of program administration and implementation of the new law.
Of the remaining tax revenue, 40 percent will go to education, 40 percent will go to New York’s Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, and 20 percent will go to the state’s drug treatment and public education fund.
Municipalities may choose to ban adult-use shops by enacting local laws within nine months of the passage of the new legislation, but they may not opt-out of adult-use legalization.
The new law prohibits workplace discrimination for cannabis use and creates automatic expungement for people with cannabis convictions for offenses that are now legal.
Home cultivation of up to six plants (three mature, three immature) is permitted under the new law, as is the possession of up to three ounces of cannabis flower and 24 grams of concentrate.
A New Era For New York Cannabis
Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell says that the new legislation is a massive domino falling in a nationwide march toward cannabis acceptance and legalization.
“We are thrilled with the inclusive framework put forward by the New York state government as we firmly believe that responsible regulations create respectable programs that lead to robust marketplaces,” says Bachtell. “New York is the financial and cultural capital of the world, and the legalization of cannabis for adult-use should serve as a catalyst4 for the progression of cannabis laws far beyond the boundaries of the state.”
Bachtell says that the state’s balanced approach to creating a competitive market with a strong emphasis on social equity and diverse ownership reiterates a nationwide trend as states transition to adult-use programs.