New York lawmakers reach a deal to legalize recreational marijuana, source says

New York State lawmakers have reached a deal to...

Posted: Mar 25, 2021 12:21 PM

New York State lawmakers have reached a deal to legalize recreational marijuana, a legislative source familiar with negotiations told CNN Wednesday, stating lawmakers were finalizing bill language to be passed next week.

"The Cannabis Law" legislation would create a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) controlled by a Cannabis Control Board, according to an internal legislative memo obtained by CNN.

The proposal would eventually allow New Yorkers over the age of 21 to grow their own plants in their homes, and a 13% tax would be tacked on to retail sales for state and local tax revenue.

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

In New York, board officials would issue licenses for different steps of the supply chain -- farming, processing, distribution, dispensaries and retail "consumption" sites, the memo says. The new state office would oversee the regulation of the adult-use and medical cannabis programs.

Some OCM officials would be tasked with focusing on social equity, including a goal to award 50% of licenses to "social equity applicants" like those from communities impacted by cannabis prohibition and minority- and women-owned businesses, according to the memo.

Percentages of the program's revenue would go to the State Lottery Fund for Education and the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund. Another portion would go to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund for "grants for qualified community-based organizations and approved local government entities to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies," the memo says.

The plan would allow law enforcement to justify suspicion of intoxication by the odor of cannabis but would prohibit using odor as a justification for searching a car for contraband, the memo says. "Impairment by cannabis" would be included in the infraction "Driving While Ability Impaired," which is the lowest degree of the "Driving While Intoxicated" statute.

The new program would also come with a new range of criminal penalties for unlawful possession and sale of cannabis, including a violation for three ounces of flower or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis and a Class D felony for more than 10 pounds of flower or four pounds of concentrated cannabis.

Municipalities could opt out of the program if residents vote to pass a local law prohibiting adult-use dispensaries within the jurisdiction. Residents could override these laws at the ballot box via the state's permissive referendum process, the memo states.

Several states have looked to loosen restrictions on marijuana. Voters in all five states with marijuana legalization on the ballot in November approved the measures, CNN reported last year.

New Jersey's marijuana legalization followed a 2020 ballot measure that saw New Jersey vote to legalize recreational marijuana. State lawmakers, unable to gain enough support to pass a bill to fully legalize marijuana, agreed to place the question directly to voters: "Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called 'cannabis'?"

Like New Jersey, Arizona also voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and Montana voted to both establish 21 as the legal age to purchase, possess and consume cannabis by constitutional amendment and to legalize marijuana for recreational use. South Dakota approved legalization for both recreational and medical use -- the first state ever to approve medical and recreational marijuana measures at the same time -- and Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana, becoming one of the first southern states to do so.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

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