Recreational cannabis is now legal in New York State.
A Tuesday debate on the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) in the New York State Senate has ended the statewide prohibition of adult-use cannabis.
Tuesday, March 30, New York legislators voted to pass recreational marijuana, making it the 15th state to legalize cannabis in the United States. On Wednesday morning New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into effect. After years of unsuccessful efforts, recreational cannabis consumption as well as its sale will soon be possible in the Empire State.
The legislation passed by over double: 43 to 20 in the Senate and 100 to 49 in the Assembly. Measures include large cultivation operations, as well as outdoor consumption at smoke-friendly cafes.
“There were many important aspects of this legislation that needed to be addressed correctly, especially the racial disparities that have plagued our state’s response to marijuana use and distribution as well as ensuring public safety, and I am proud that through strong collaboration, we have reached the finish line,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in an official statement.
In addition to legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis, the MRTA includes home growing guidelines. Adult New Yorkers will soon be able to grow up to three mature plants and three immature plants either inside or outside. The maximum number of plants per household is 12 (6 mature and 6 immature).
New York’s MRTA creates an Office of Cannabis Management with a board of 5 members as well as an Executive Director, Chief Equity Officer, and Advisory Board. The MRTA creates the basis for a regulated cannabis industry that is not be dominated by large companies. MRTA utilizes equity programs to make participation in the legal cannabis industry accessible. These equity programs target small farmers as well as individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition in the past.
Individuals with prior convictions for activities no longer criminalized under the MRTA will have their convictions expunged. Other aspects of this new legislation include a five pound maximum home possession limit. Criminal penalties for unlawful sale and possession start at a violation level at three ounces of flower or 24 grams of cannabis concentrate.
Under the MRTA, driving under the influence of cannabis is also considered a violation of Driving While Ability Impaired, the lowest degree of Driving While Intoxicated. The MRTA will fund the implementation of saliva testing for drivers in the future as well as the continued training of more Drug Recognition Experts (DRE). Currently, The odor of cannabis is a valid reason to suspect a driver is under the influence of cannabis according to the MRTA, yet odor is not deemed justifiable grounds for searching a car for contraband.
“I am very proud to say that we have finally reached a three-way agreement on legalizing adult-use cannabis in a way that foregrounds racial justice, while balancing safety with economic growth, encouraging new small businesses, and significantly diminishing the illegal market. My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities. I believe we have achieved that in this bill, as well as addressing the concerns and input of stakeholders across the board. When this bill becomes law, New York will be poised to implement a nation-leading model for what marijuana legalization can look like” bill sponsor Senator Liz Krueger said in the official New York State Senate statement.
Under this new legislation, cities, towns, and villages will be able to opt-out from having adult-use dispensaries / adult-use social consumption sites located in their communities. Any community wishing to opt out will need to have the matter voted on by the local government and this will likely need to be completed before December 31, 2021 shortly thereafter depending on the date of the legislation.
The taxation of legal recreational cannabis will be based upon the milligrams of THC detected in the products by a laboratory test.
Legal cannabis sales can begin as soon as one year after the enactment of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The governor’s office estimates that a legal cannabis program will generate approximately $350 million annually in New York State. Excess profits will be redistributed and will be used to help communities disproportionately affected by cannabis offenses.
Now this doesn’t exactly sound like the on-site consumption, coffeeshop vibe you can experience in Amsterdam, but licensed marijuana smoking lounges in the state of New York certainly sounds enticing during your next New York vacation.