BINGHAMTON, NY – Scandal-ridden Gov. Andrew Cuomo may be on the outs with local and national Democrats, but he just delivered a huge win for progressives everywhere by signing recreational marijuana into law for the sprawling state of New York.
For each of the past two years Cuomo was the main impediment to recreational marijuana legalization in the Empire State, but now that he’s out of political capital as he tries to salvage his political career, the combative governor was forced to cave on all the areas he opposed for years, including the legislature’s decision to maintain more control over where the tax revenue from cannabis sales gets doled out.
New York now becomes the 16th state (17th if you include Washington, DC) to legalize recreational adult-use marijuana, opening up legal cannabis sales not only to one of the largest economies in the United States and world but also to the state that’s home to the city that sets trends that are then mimicked across the globe.
“A new era for marijuana justice is here”Melissa Moore
Once the scandals and accusations starting slowly, then quickly, dripping out just a few weeks back, years of stalemate over marijuana dissipated as legislative leaders and Cuomo announced they were in negotiations to strike a deal on cannabis earlier this month. Within several weeks, the legislation was finalized and sailed through both chambers of New York’s Democratic-controlled legislature without issue. Every Republican legislator voted against the proposal, and a handful of Democrats defected as well.
Progressives won key provisions in the measure. It promises to expunge low-level marijuana possession charges from people’s records, use tax revenue from cannabis to set up grants for the predominantly Black and Brown communities devastated by the federal government’s ‘war on drugs,’ while prioritizing small businesses, as opposed to big cannabis firms, when marijuana business licenses are passed out soon.
New Yorkers will likely have to wait until 2022 to purchase marijuana legally in the state, though some of the provisions of the law are effective as of Wednesday. For example, possession of up to three ounces of cannabis outside the home, and up to five pounds inside one’s dwelling, is now permitted under state law. The smell or sight of cannabis, or burning marijuana, is also no longer probable cause for a search by law enforcement, in most cases.
“A new era for marijuana justice is here,” New York Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Melissa Moore, a pro-marijuana advocacy group, wrote in a release Wednesday. “After years of hard work against long odds, New York has enacted one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the country.”
According to estimates by the New York State Department of Health, the state’s cannabis industry could grow to as large as $3.5 billion while also providing new job opportunities for cultivators, distributors and those who work in retail.
Read The News Station’s comprehensive rundown of what’s in New York’s marijuana legalization measure: Complete Guide to the Empire State’s New Marijuana Bill.