New Yorkers can now possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis under a legalization bill signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Criminal justice reform advocates hope the legislation signed Wednesday will help redress the inequities of a system that has locked up people of color for marijuana offenses at disproportionate rates.
The legislation provides protections for cannabis users in the workplace, housing, family court and in schools, colleges and universities, and sets a target of providing half of marijuana licenses to individuals from underrepresented communities.
Sales of recreational-use marijuana won’t become legal for an estimated 18 months until the state draws up regulations.
#BREAKING: I just signed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis.
The bill creates automatic expungement of previous marijuana convictions that would now be legal.
This is a historic day.
I thank the Leader and Speaker and the tireless advocacy of so many.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 31, 2021
The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act contains the following provisions:
Establish the Office of Cannabis Management
The Office of Cannabis Management will enforce regulations governing medical, adult-use cannabinoid hemp. It will be governed by a five-member board, with three members appointed by the governor and one appointment by each house. OCM will be an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority.
The legislation will expand the list of medical conditions that make someone eligible to use medical marijuana. The state will also increase the number of caregivers allowed per patient and prmit home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients.
The legislation will create a two-tier licensing structure that will allow for a large range of producers by separating growers and processors from also owning retail stores.
The legislation creates licenses for producers and distributors and the legislation will implement strict quality control, public health and consumer protections.
A social and economic equity program will aim to give 50% of licenses to minority- or woman-owned businesses, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry.
The bill implements a new cannabis tax structure that will 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 will be moved to the retail level with a 9% state excise tax. The local excise tax rate will be 4% of the retail price. Counties will receive 25% of the local retail tax revenue and 75% will go to the municipality.
The legislation permits the sale of hemp flower in the cannabinoid hemp program, and allows for smokeable forms only when adult use retail stores are operational.
Adult-Use Cannabis Tax Revenue
All cannabis taxes will 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 will be split three ways:
- 40% to Education
- 40% to Community Grants Reinvestment Fund
- 20% 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 Dec. 31, 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 and will carry the same penalties as it does currently.
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: amends 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 after first adult-use sales begin 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 will be restructured to avoid the criminalization seen in prohibition. Reduced penalties will 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 will be prohibited and workplace safety protections will be implemented.
Public Health and Education Campaign
OCM will establish a public health and education campaign and work with neighboring states and associations to coordinate actions and policies to protect regional health and safety.