New York is on the verge of legalizing recreational cannabis as early as next week after state lawmakers finalized language for a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana for people over 21.
The proposed legislation, which was introduced Saturday, days after lawmakers struck an agreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would include social justice elements to "repair the heavily discriminatory impact that enforcement of prohibition has had on communities of color in New York State," said state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat, in a statement.
"I am very proud that we finally have a ... bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in a way that foregrounds racial justice, while balancing safety with economic growth, encouraging new small businesses, and significantly diminishing the illegal market," Krueger said.
"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."
Krueger added that lawmakers could take up the bill next week.
The provisions include dedicating 40 percent of revenue for communities disproportionately impacted by the so-called drug war, automatic expungement of records for people with previous convictions and the elimination of penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis.
The bill would also establish "equity programs" that would provide loans and grants to small farmers and people who have been affected by the drug war interested in entering the industry.
"Cannabis legalization in New York will be centered on equity, investment into communities, economic opportunities for historically disenfranchised people, research, education and public safety," said New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat, in a statement. "I am honored to sponsor this legislation and excited to see the positive impact it will have for so many New Yorkers."
According to the proposed legislation, an Office of Cannabis Management would be created. comprising a five-member board tasked with regulating and overseeing the nascent industry, including establishing license protocols for growers, dispensaries and consumption sites.
All adult-use cannabis would be laboratory-tested before it is sold to consumers. The office would also set a 9 percent sales tax, a 4 percent locality tax and an additional tax based on THC content.
New York residents would be limited to growing three mature and three immature plants per adult with a maximum of six mature and six immature plants per household. Localities would be allowed to opt out of retail sales.
New York's recreational cannabis market is estimated to be worth $4.6 billion by 2023 and $5.8 billion by 2027, according to a recent analysis by advisory firm MPG Consulting.
Earlier this year, Cuomo called for the creation of a new Office of Cannabis Management that would oversee recreational use, as well as existing medical use, NBC New York reported. It was his third attempt to push New York towards legalization in as many years.
"For too long, the lives of New Yorkers in low-income and communities of color across the state have been ruined by our state's draconian enforcement of harmful prohibitionist policies, said Troy Smit, of Empire State NORML, in a statement. "We sincerely hope that the New York State Legislature passes this bill."