HUDSON VALLEY, NY – After years of debate, lawmakers acted quickly to reach a “historic day” when Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed their bill legalizing recreational marijuana. Opinions within the Hudson Valley delegation were divided mainly on the basis of parties.
New York joined its neighbors and became the 15th state in the country to allow people 21 and over to legally use weed. The marijuana regulation and taxation law is expected to bring $ 350 million in tax revenue to state coffers each year and potentially create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs, Cuomo said.
The legislation deal was announced Sunday night, and by Tuesday night the Senate and State Assembly had approved and sent the bill to Cuomo’s office for signature.
“For decades, the existing marijuana laws in New York have failed to protect the well-being of our black and Latin communities. Thousands of New Yorkers have been pushed into the criminal justice system and have gone. denied access to housing, voting, student loans and employment opportunities. ” State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx / Westchester) said. “The adoption of the MRTA is the first step towards rectifying the damage caused by the war on drugs and centering the communities disproportionately affected by the marijuana prohibition.”
Not all lawmakers voted yes. New York State Senator Sue Serino (R-Dutchess / Putnam) raised concerns about the potential impact on children and on road and workplace safety.
“More importantly, although the intention of this bill is to legalize only recreational marijuana for adult use, I remain extremely concerned about the unintended consequences this will have on our children,” Serino said in a statement. “Unlike alcohol, there is currently no specific scientific roadside test to detect marijuana in an impaired driver, which makes it incredibly difficult to deter impaired driving, and even more difficult to deter drunk driving. hold those who drive under the influence responsible for any harm they may cause.The lack of available detection methods will also pose a number of workplace health and safety concerns, whether on a construction site. construction, in a health establishment or elsewhere. ”
Assembly member Mike Lawler (R-Rockland) said the bill lacked key protections, particularly a power cap.
“By legalizing marijuana, we are making our residents feel like drug use is okay – when in fact it’s not,” he said. “We should not be promoting the use of drugs to increase our state’s income, especially without capping potency. Dozens of studies show that legalizing marijuana will cause significant mental health problems for those who use it. The public safety, public health and mental health of New Yorkers must be protected, and we must not ignore these factors in search of additional revenue for the state. “
Others hailed the news.
“Today, New York City stepped in and took transformative action to end the ban on adult marijuana,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester ). “This legislation is an important first step in the fight against racial disparities caused by the war on drugs that has plagued our state for too long.”
State Senator Pete Harckham has said that by regulating the sale of marijuana, New York “will be able to bring this economic activity out of the shadows for the benefit of all of our residents.”
“This legislation is the result of substantial conversations with relevant stakeholders across the state,” Harckham said. “Because we took the time to put together the necessary information and put everyone’s concerns together, the result is a comprehensive agreement that stands as the most thoughtful bill of its kind in the country.”
The New York State Cannabis / Marijuana Tax and Regulatory Act establishes a Cannabis Management Office to enforce a regulatory framework for medical cannabinoid hemp for adult use. The deal would allow people with a larger list of medical conditions to access medical marijuana, increase the number of licensed caregivers per patient, and allow home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients, according to the agreement. a statement.
In addition, the legislation would open the door to recreational marijuana, creating a two-tier licensing structure, separating growers and processors from retail store owners, the statement said.
The legislation creates licenses for producers and distributors, among others, and the legislation seeks to implement quality control, public health and consumer protection.
A social and economic equity program would facilitate those disproportionately affected by cannabis law enforcement, including creating a target of 50 percent of licenses to go to a minority-owned or female-owned business , distressed farmers or disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry, Cuomo said.
Local towns and villages can refuse to authorize recreational cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law before December 31 or nine months after the effective date of the regulation. legislation. They cannot refuse legalization of adult use.
On the issue of road safety, Cuomo said the New York State Department of Health will work with higher education institutions to conduct a controlled research study designed to assess methodologies and technologies for detecting driving while impaired by cannabis.
The bill allows for the automatic de-listing or conviction of anyone who has previously been convicted of marijuana, which would now be legal under the law and provides the necessary funding, and adds cannabis to the quality of cannabis law. indoor air.
A public health and education campaign will also be launched, Cuomo said.
As New York faces a $ 15 billion revenue shortfall amid the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo in January called for the legalization of recreational marijuana and online sports games.
In 2019, Cuomo signed a law to decriminalize possession of marijuana and strike down some marijuana convictions. He also called a multi-state summit that year to discuss the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in New Jersey in February. Connecticut is thinking about it. Massachusetts and Vermont, other neighboring states, legalized adult marijuana use several years ago. In Pennsylvania, it is legal for medical use.