STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new pieces of legislation Tuesday that detail aspects of and add to the state’s proposal for adult-use recreational marijuana.
Three new amendments to the proposed recreational legalization would enable delivery services, adjust criminal charges related to black market sales, and detail how funds generated by new taxes are distributed, according to a media release from the governor’s office.
“Our comprehensive approach to legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue,” Cuomo said.
“But it also enables us to directly support the communities most impacted by the war on drugs by creating equity and jobs at every level, in every community in our great state.”
The state expects the new recreational marijuana industry to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue, amounts of which will be set aside for a “Social Equity Fund” that will be used to support those “most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition.”
If the legislation passes in April, $100 million will be allocated to the fund over four years starting the following year with $50 million allocated annually after those years.
According to Tuesday’s media release, localities and community-based nonprofit organizations will be able to apply for some of that funding for things like job placement, substance abuse treatment, and housing.
The new industry would create an estimated 60,000 jobs in addition to the new tax revenue.
Another Cuomo proposal announced Tuesday would legalize marijuana delivery services that would “offer a low-cost entry point into the industry” particularly benefiting poorer communities, according to his office.
Local governments would have the opportunity to opt out of these services in their jurisdictions, according to the media release.
Lastly, the governor’s proposals would update the state’s criminal code as it relates to marijuana sales outside the proposed legal market. Sales to those under 21 and large sales will remain crimes but have their penalties reduced.
“When establishing a new product market as the Governor’s proposal does, there will inevitably be attempts by bad actors to skirt rules and commit fraud for their own financial gain,” the media release reads.
“This makes it critically important to ensure that penalties are carefully calibrated to ensure that all those who wish to participate in this new market, are operating on the same level playing field.”
THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION
Cuomo laid out the initial plan for legalizing marijuana in the first week of the new year, and expanded on his plans during his 2021 State of the State Address.
Under the governor’s plan, the sale of marijuana products will be relegated to adults who are at least 21 years old. Safety controls would include “strict regulation of the packaging, labeling, advertising and testing of all cannabis products,” according to Cuomo’s office.
Laws legalizing adult-use marijuana have been on Cuomo’s agenda for several years, as neighboring New Jersey has also pursued legalization.
In 2018, the Department of Health, under Cuomo’s direction, conducted a multi-agency study that concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult use of the drug outweighed the negatives. It also stated that prohibition of the drug for several decades in the U.S. failed to achieve public health and safety goals, while also leading to unjust arrests and convictions — particularly in communities of color.
Cuomo then signed legislation in 2019 to decriminalize unlawful possession, while also initiating a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions.
Adult use of marijuana has been legalized in 16 states, in addition to the District of Columbia. There only are six states in which neither recreational nor medical use are legal.
Across the border in New Jersey, an active marijuana industry is still months, if not a year, from becoming a reality.
Once officially signed into law, Staten Islanders would be able to cross the border and shop for THC products. The minimum age to partake would be 21. If dispensaries open while the drug remains illegal in New York, residents would be in violation of New York and federal law upon re-entering the Empire State.
In March, Staten Island’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors to customers. Delivery services already were an option for patients who meet the state’s requirements for a prescription.
>> Reporting from Kyle Lawson was used in this article. <<