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Breaking! New York Lawmakers Agree to Legalize Cannabis

ALBANY, NY (AP) — New York is set to join a growing number of states that have legalized marijuana after state lawmakers reached a deal allowing the drug to be sold recreationally.

The deal reached Saturday would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program and introduce a licensing and taxation system for recreational sales. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday, as soon as possible. Legislative leaders hope to vote on the budget on Wednesday to meet the deadline for having a budget in place by April 1.

It took years for state lawmakers to come to a consensus on how to legalize recreational marijuana in New York. Democrats, who now hold a non-veto majority in the state Legislature, have made it a priority this year, and the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has estimated that legalization could eventually pay dividends. State approximately 350 million dollars per year.

“My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has wreaked so much havoc on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities,” said Senator Liz Krueger, sponsor of the Senate bill and chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

The legislation would allow the sale of recreational marijuana to adults over 21 and establish a licensing process for the delivery of cannabis products to customers. New Yorkers could grow up to three mature plants and three immature plants for personal consumption, and local governments could opt out of retail sales.

The legislation would go into effect immediately if passed, although sales would not begin until New York sets rules and offers cannabis advice. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes estimated on Friday that it would take between 18 months and two years for sales to begin.

Adam Goers, vice president of Columbia Care, a New York medical marijuana supplier that wants to enter the recreational market, said New York’s proposed system would “ensure that newcomers have a place in the market” alongside existing medical marijuana suppliers in the state.

“There’s a big pie that a lot of different people are going to be able to be part of,” Goers said.

New York would establish a 9% cannabis sales tax, plus an additional 4% tax split between the county and local government. It would also impose an additional tax based on the level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, ranging from 0.5 cents per milligram for flower to 3 cents per milligram for edibles.

New York would eliminate penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis and automatically erase the records of people with previous convictions for marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminalized. It’s a step beyond a 2019 law that overturned many previous marijuana possession convictions and reduced the sentence for possession of small amounts.

And New York would provide loans, grants and incubation programs to encourage participation in the cannabis industry by people from minority communities, as well as small farmers, women and veterans with disabilities.

Supporters said the move could create thousands of jobs and begin to address the racial injustice of a decades-long war on drugs that disproportionately targeted minority and poor communities.

“Police, prosecutors, child services and ICE have used criminalization as a weapon against them, and the impact this bill will have on the lives of our over-supervised clients cannot be overstated. “said Alice Frontier, executive director of the Harlem Neighborhood Defender Service. in a statement on Saturday.

Some other states that have legalized recreational marijuana have struggled to address the inequities created by the wars on drugs.

Three years after Massachusetts voters passed a ballot initiative making recreational cannabis legal in the state, black entrepreneurs filed a complaint in 2019 that all but two of Massachusetts’ 184 marijuana business licenses were issued to white operators.

California voters also legalized recreational marijuana sales in 2016 and urged people to seek the cancellation or reduction of old marijuana convictions. Corn relatively few people took advantage of the provision initially.

Criminal justice reform advocates said New York’s bill avoids that problem by implementing a process to automatically overturn marijuana convictions.

“We are very pleased that the bill includes automatic debarment. This is integral to addressing past harms,” said Emma Goodman, a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society.

Melissa Moore, director of the Drug Policy Alliance for New York State, said the bill “really puts a nail in the coffin of the war on drugs that has been so devastating to communities in New York, and puts in place comprehensive policies that are truly rooted in the community.” reinvestment.

At least 14 other states already allow residents to buy marijuana for recreational, not just medical, use. Cuomo pointed to the growing acceptance of legalization in the Northeast, including Massachusetts, Maine and, more recently, New Jersey.

New York does not have a statewide referendum process like California and Massachusetts, so only the legislature has the power to legalize recreational marijuana, as it did with same-sex marriage in 2011. .

Past efforts to legalize recreational use have been hurt by a lack of support from suburban Democrats, disagreements over how to split marijuana sales tax revenue and questions about how to deal with drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated .

He has also faced opposition from law enforcement, schools and community advocates, who warn that legalization would further strain a healthcare system already overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic and send mixed messages to young people.

“We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the severe youth vaping crisis and the continuing opioid epidemic, this harmful legislation is counterintuitive,” said an open letter signed by Medical Society of the State of NY, New York State Parent Teacher Association, New York Sheriff’s Association and several other organizations on March 11.

New York officials plan to launch an education and prevention campaign aimed at reducing cannabis risk among school-aged children, and schools could get grants for anti-vaping and prevention and awareness programs to drugs.

And the state will also launch a study planned by December 31, 2022, which examines how much cannabis impairs driving and whether it depends on factors such as weather and metabolism.

The bill also sets aside revenue to cover the costs of everything from marijuana regulation to drug prevention.

State police could also get funding to hire and train more so-called “drug recognition experts.”

But there’s no evidence that drug recognition experts can tell whether or not someone is high, according to R. Lorraine Collins, a psychologist and professor of community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo. Collins was named to Cuomo’s task force in 2018 tasked with drafting cannabis regulations.

“I think it’s very important that we approach this challenge using science and research and not wishful thinking or unsubstantiated assertions,” Collins said.

Collins pointed to a 2020 report from the American Civil Liberties Union that found black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, based on FBI statistics.

“Every New Yorker should be concerned about how these laws will be implemented or how these driver review methods will be implemented in different communities,” Collins said. “It’s unlikely to be even.”

The bill allows cities and towns to opt out of licensing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing local law by Dec. 31, 2021, or nine months after the law is passed. date of entry into force of the legislation. They cannot refuse legalization.

Original article first seen on Associated Press

Image by: Brandon Jacoby

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