After state lawmakers reached an agreement to authorize recreational marijuana sales, New York is expected to join a growing number of states that have legalized the drug.
The deal reached on Saturday, which is expected to be signed into law in the coming days, will expand the state’s current medical marijuana program and establish a licensing and taxation structure for recreational marijuana purchases.
It has taken years for New York politicians to reach an agreement about how to legalize recreational marijuana. Democrats, who now dominate the state Legislature with a veto-proof majority, have made legalization a top priority this year, with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration predicting that it will earn the state $350 million per year.
Sen. Liz Krueger, Senate sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate’s finance committee, said:
“My goal is 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.”
Adults over the age of 21 would be able to purchase recreational marijuana, and a licensing system for distributing cannabis products to consumers would be developed. Individuals in New York City could grow up to three mature and three immature plants for personal consumption, with local governments having the option to opt-out of retail sales.
If passed, the bill would go into effect immediately, but sales would not begin until New York establishes regulations and a proposed cannabis board. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes predicted on Friday that sales could start in 18 months to two years.
Cannabis will be subject to a 9% sales tax in New York, with an additional 4% tax distributed between the county and local governments. It will also levy a surcharge depending on the quantity of THC in marijuana, which would range from 0.5 cents per milligram for flower to 3 cents per milligram for edibles.
New York will repeal penalties for possession of fewer than three ounces of cannabis and expunge the records of individuals who have previously been convicted of marijuana-related offenses that are no longer punishable. That’s a step forward from a 2019 law that expunged several previous marijuana possession convictions and lowered the penalty for small amounts.