(WSYR-TV) — A final deal to legalize recreational marijuana in New York has been made and it’s expected to be voted on this week before heading over to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for final approval. Cuomo has already said he’s excited to sign the bill into law.
If passed, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) would legalize sales to adults over the age of 21. It will also automatically expunge low-level marijuana convictions that would be considered legal under the bill.
Users would be allowed to grow plants in their own home and people could possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 ounces of cannabis concentrate.
However, driving while under the influence of marijuana would still be considered a misdemeanor under the new law.
Those already in the industry are hopeful this will help small businesses expand.
“We’re predicting about 50,000 jobs across the state with the adult-use cannabis program. In the bill, there’s also a labor peace agreement. Which means many of those jobs will be union jobs. They’ll have good pay, good benefits,” said Allan Gandelman, President of the NY Cannabis and Processors Association. “We’re really looking at this the same way New York has done the craft beer and the farm brewery thing. A lot of small businesses, direct to consumer, luckily this is in the legislation, like a micro-business license, so hopefully, those can be given out really really quickly.”
The vote is expected soon and the law would take effect immediately but it will likely take more than a year for the changes to be seen in the state.
Below are the provisions included in The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act:
Establish the Office of Cannabis Management
The Office of Cannabis Management would be charged with enforcing a comprehensive regulatory framework governing medical, adult-use cannabinoid hemp. It would be governed by a five-member board, with three members appointed by the Governor and one appointment by each house. OCM would be an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority.
The agreement would allow people with a larger list of medical conditions to access medical marijuana, increase the number of caregivers allowed per patient, and permit home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients.
The agreement would create a two-tier licensing structure that would allow for a large range of producers by separating those growers and processors from also owning retail stores. The legislation creates licenses for producers and distributors, among other entities, and the legislation will implement strict quality control, public health and consumer protections. A social and economic equity program would facilitate individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis enforcement, including creating a goal of 50% of licenses to go to a minority or woman owned business enterprise, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry.
The Bill proposes a new cannabis tax structure that would replace a weight-based tax with a tax per mg of THC at the distributor level with different rates depending on final product type. The wholesale excise tax would be moved to the retail level with a 9 percent state excise tax. The local excise tax rate would be 4 percent of the retail price. Counties would receive 25% of the local retail tax revenue and 75 percent would go to the municipality.
The agreement would permit the sale of hemp flower in the cannabinoid hemp program, and allow for smokeable forms only when adult use retail stores are operational.
Adult-Use Cannabis Tax Revenue
All cannabis taxes would be deposited in the New York state cannabis revenue fund. Revenue covers reasonable costs to administer the program and implement the law. The remaining funding would be split three ways:
- 40 Percent to Education
- 40 Percent to Community Grants Reinvestment Fund
- 20 Percent to Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund
Cities, towns, and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization.
The New York State Department of Health will work with institutions of higher education to conduct a controlled research study designed to evaluate methodologies and technologies for the detection of cannabis-impaired driving. After completion of the research study, DOH may create and implement rules and regulations to approve and certify a test for the presence of cannabis in drivers.
The legislation includes additional funding for drug recognition experts and law enforcement to ensure safe roadways.
The use of cannabis by drivers will remain prohibited.
Personal Possession and Home Cultivation
The following conditions apply to growing cannabis at home and personal possession of cannabis outside the home:
- Personal possession outside of the home: up to 3 ounces cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate
- Home possession: Amending limits of what is permitted in the home, which must be kept in a secure location away from children
- Home grow: permitted under the bill subject to possession limits in 18 months for adult recreational use and subject to regulations of the Medical Program being promulgated no sooner than 6 months:
- 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants for adults over 21
- 6 mature plants and 6 immature plants maximum per household
- 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants for adults over 21
Criminal Justice and Record Expungement
The cannabis penalty framework would be restructured to avoid the criminalization seen in prohibition. Reduced penalties would be implemented for possession and sale.
- Creates automatic expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal under the law and provides necessary funding
- Adds cannabis to the clean indoor air act which establishes a baseline on where cannabis can be smoked or vaped
- Municipalities and local governments are permitted to make laws that are more restrictive than the CIAA. Contains various provisions to ensure that cannabis is treated as a lawful substance and to prevent discriminatory enforcement
Protections for the Use of Cannabis and Workplace Safety
Unlawful discrimination would be prohibited and workplace safety protections would be implemented.
Public Health and Education Campaign
OCM will establish a robust public health and education campaign and work with neighboring states and associations to coordinate actions and policies to protect regional health and safety.