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New York State Lawmakers Strike Deal to Legalize Recreational Cannabis



After several failed attempts, New York state officials have finalized a deal to legalize recreational cannabis use.

According to The New York Times, lawmakers in Albany struck an agreement with Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 25. A Siena College poll conducted earlier this month found that nearly 60 percent of New York voters favor legalizing recreational cannabis. 

Known as “The Cannabis Law,” this legislation would create a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) controlled by a Cannabis Control Board,and would eventually allow New Yorkers ages of 21 and older to smoke cannabis recreationally and grow their own plants in their homes. A 13 percent tax would be tacked on to retail sales for state and local tax revenue.

The deal follows cannabis legalization in neighboring New Jersey. Last month, Governor Phil Murphy signed bills to legalize and regulate cannabis use for people 21 and older, decriminalize possession of limited amounts of cannabis, and clarify cannabis use and possession penalties for those younger than 21. 

Lawmakers also hope the plan will have an impact on the ways Black and Hispanic people are disproportionately policed and charged with low-level cannabis offenses. Under “The Cannabis Law,” millions of dollars in tax revenue from cannabis sales would be reinvested into marginalized communities every year. 

In a memo obtained by CNN, half of the related business licenses would go towards social equity applicants, which the new organization says includes “those from communities impacted by cannabis prohibition and minority—and women-owned businesses. 

“When this bill is finally voted on and signed, New York will be able to say we have finally undone damaging criminal justice laws that accomplished nothing but ruining people’s lives,” State Senator Liz Krueger (D) said. “We will finally be able to say we are going to have an industry for cannabis that assures people who buy the product that they are buying a legitimate product from legitimate companies.” 

The language of the legislation has not been finalized, but could pass as soon as next week. If approved, cannabis sales would likely not become legal for at least another year.