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New York Governor Cuomo Includes Cannabis Legalization in New Budget

Ground weed in the shape of New York

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, recently announced his intentions to support the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New York. He estimates that cannabis could bring in as much as $300 million in taxes for the state. The money, according to Cuomo, would be used for cannabis enforcement, programs for alcohol and drug abuse, and a “Marijuana Revenue Fund.”

Governor Cuomo also claims that New York cannabis legislation would change the continuing impact on communities of color. Furthermore, Cuomo stated his intentions to build a cannabis industry which will empower these poor communities, not the wealthy corporations who will no doubt come set up shop for a profit.

Cuomo’s Executive Budget indicates that over 800,000 people were arrested in New York for possessing marijuana. The majority of these arrests were made up of people of color.

Democrats, including Senator Liz Krueger, released a memorandum in support of the Gov.s budget, including the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act. A measure which would create taxes and regulations for adult-use cannabis. That said, the memorandum also hinted at the fact that the home-growing stipulations existing in the original proposal would more than likely be removed before the legislation is passed.

Sen. Kreuger mentioned in an email that she’s glad Gov. Cuomo has embraced the idea of ending cannabis prohibition in the state and is looking forward to closely examining his proposal. However, she believes the devil is in the details and makes no promises on how things will turn out.

The current proposal suggests an allowance of six plants to be grown in the home, seed-to-sale tracking, penalties for illegal growing, sales and more. Furthermore, the measure proposes a personal possession limit of up to two pounds of cannabis flower and four and a half grams of various concentrates. It is unclear whether or not these proposed limits will be passed into law as is, or if they’ll be reduced before the legislation is made legal.

It is important to note that current laws regarding cannabis in New York have done nothing to reduce the use of, and illegal distribution of, marijuana in the state. Even more, the state’s current laws have not only created room for a massive black market, they have also majorly, and disproportionately impacted Latino and African-American communities.

That said, the new measure includes the implementation of a social-equity incubator for minorities and women. The proposed idea defines those who would benefit from the program as those who’ve been impacted be cannabis prohibition and have an income less than 80 percent of the national median income due to a cannabis-related conviction before the passing of the new bill. The program would provide several services to these individuals, including cannabis licensing, counseling, education, small business coaching and more.

Even more, the measure proposes to do away with possession of two pounds of marijuana or less, as well as the odor of cannabis, being used by law enforcement as “reasonable suspicion” and as official evidence in criminal proceedings.

As far as licenses go, the proposed bill outlines nine types of cannabis licenses: producer, processor, distributor, nursery, retailer, microbusiness, on-site consumption, testing, and delivery. Furthermore, it would implement three separate cannabis-related taxes: a tax requiring $1 per gram of dried flower and $0.25 per gram of dried cannabis trim, a tax of 20 percent on the invoice price of cannabis sold by wholesalers to retailers, and an additional tax of 2 percent on wholesale sales to dispensaries collected for the county that the dispensary is located in. Registration fees, as well as bi-annual renewal fees, have also been proposed to be $600.

A medical cannabis program has also been suggested in the bill, allowing for approved medical marijuana patients to grow up to four plants according to an email sent to a staff member of the governor’s office. Currently, there is no such medical cannabis program, nor are flower products available to medical patients in the state.

Two of the states bordering New York have already passed such legislation, Massachusetts and Vermont, as well as Canada. New Jersey is also likely to pass similar legislation this year. If approved, New York will be the eleventh state to pass legislation allowing adult-use cannabis in the United States. That said, Gov. Cuomo’s budget included cannabis revenue by 2021, suggesting that sales could begin as early as 2020 if legislators pass the bill soon.

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