Cannabis legalization has been on and off the table in New York for what feels like forever. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his third legalization proposal this January 2021, after failed attempts in both 2019 and 2020. In hopes of securing a deal with the legislature, Cuomo is introducing an amended version of the proposal later this week. Cuomo’s amendments changes will allow cannabis delivery services; reduce criminal penalties for illegal sales; and outlines how the state will allocate tax funds.
State officials plan to distribute $100 million of cannabis tax revenue to social equity programs and community revitalization efforts.
Qualified non-profits and local governments could apply for funding for things like housing, skills training, and legal services for communities most affected by prohibition.
The original proposal says that a board of appointed individuals would award the funding for these programs. However, according to the governor’s website, the new amendments assign a state agency to administer such grants.
Cuomo’s amendments place an emphasis on the economic benefits that legalization could provide for distressed areas of New York.
According to a press release, legalization is expected to create more than 60,000 new jobs and $350 million in tax revenue.
Delivery services will provide entry-level and low-cost opportunities for New Yorkers hoping to participate in the growing industry.
According to his website, the governor plans to permit delivery as a way to “open up access to this new industry even further so more New Yorkers can participate as it grows.”
Local governments in the state could opt-out of this, however — unlike in California, where state laws prohibit local jurisdictions from preventing deliveries.
Cuomo’s amendments also include reductions of penalties for illegal sales. Such reductions will help account for the continuously disproportionate effects of outdated policies on minorities and underserved communities.
The proposal makes the following reductions to criminal sales:
- Third-degree sales (sale to under 21 year old) will be made a class A misdemeanor
- Second-degree sales (sale of over 16 ounces or 80 grams of concentrate) will be made a class E felony
- First degree sales (sale of over 64 ounces or 320 grams of concentrate) will be made a class D felony
The amendments also referenced a 2018 study by the Department of Health, which concluded that the positive impacts of legalization outweigh the negatives.
What’s the Timeline?
The governor noted that, while there has been progress, officials have not made any agreements yet, and legalization is far overdue.
As a result, “You have people that are incarcerated for crimes that frankly, they shouldn’t have a record on.” Cuomo stated in regards to legalization in a press briefing on Feb. 15.
“We’re setting up a new bill that reflects the conversations we’ve had,” he continued. “I think it would be a [failure] if we don’t get it done this year. I think that would be a mistake.”
Officials expects the final proposal to be part of legislation on the state budget, due at the end of March.
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