As we all are looking at how the legal cannabis market is evolving and being approved across our nation, New York is still in the process of finalizing its adult-use marijuana legalization bill. New York is hoping the third time’s the charm, however things seem to be hitting a roadblock again.
For starters, New York has the potential to become one of the biggest marijuana markets in the world. But it’s existing medical cannabis framework is heavily regulated and has a lot of people wondering, including their experts, on how the market will react once the recreational bill passes.
Let’s dive into this deeper. Currently, a top New York lawmaker said on Wednesday that New York should first move to pass a marijuana legalization bill that was introduced by her before entering into any negotiations with the governor’s office about the separate cannabis plan he recently unveiled.
The biggest take away from all of this is that the current adult-use legalization bill has key differences from what Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and his proposal includes; things such as home cultivation, budget, additional services related to marijuana, and so forth. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) stated that the legislature should just start by passing her legislation, then working with Cuomo and his office to find middle ground.
This is to prevent yet another breakdown in negotiations over the details, which has happened the last two times the governor put legalization in his budget request. According to Spectrum News, Stokes (D) said that, “In some ways, I’m pleased that the governor has submitted a proposal again. But I do think that, in all honesty, this is the third time that he’s done this, and so I think the proper thing for us to do as a legislature is to approve the bill that [Sen. Liz Krueger (D)] and I’ve been carrying for the last six years.”
She also goes on to mention that the floor should approve their bill and then negotiations could begin with Cuomo’s team/Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Obviously in the cannabis industry this has garnered much attention as people grow impatient. A final New York Budget is due to be enacted by April 1, meaning that the top assembly member wants lawmakers to pass the legislature’s own legalization bill within the next several weeks.
Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) outlined a specific issue with the governor’s proposal, namely the concern for social equity. Stokes (D) elaborated that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to put a portion of marijuana tax revenue toward equity grants for communities most impacted by the drug war was a step in the right direction, but should be codified in a statute. She goes on to state that she believes it to be a much larger process, and that it can’t go year-by-year. Especially if Cuomo is no longer governor, because governor is not a lifetime position. It requires a lot more attention to detail with a continual process for something like this to really have an impact on people’s lives who had been impacted by the war on drugs, therefore she felt it required it to be stated in a statute which would only be fair for the years to come.
Another provision in which there were differences that caused delay is the governor’s plan to increase penalties for selling marijuana to people under 21-making it a class D felony punishable with incarceration. In some cases two and half years (2.5) in prison instead of a misdemeanor as it currently is. Peoples-Stoke’s outlook is that a felony level crime is out of proportion. There are several matters like these that require additional conversation after the bill is passed. They could negotiate and come up with the right bill that will have the right impact.
There is still much to be fixed, as articles have said that her approach to this policy is to “save people’s lives,” whereas Cuomo (D) seems largely interested in closing the state’s budget gap, while still addressing social equity to an extent. Sources have stated that until they can fix these issues, they were not going to heal as a society, or in Peoples-Stokes words “we’re not going to bring things into fruition where they need to be.”
There is also the disputed cultivation component to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan. Home cultivation would not be allowed, where other states have allowed up to six (6) plants for personal use. However, the governor feels differently about adults 21 and older to be able to purchase cannabis and cultivate on their own. There are different views on this matter that will need resolution.
Lastly, the tax revenue that Andrew Cuomo’s plan is proposing is as follows: A three tiered taxed system on recreational cannabis products. One based on THC content to be applied at the wholesale level, a 10.25% surcharge tax at the point of purchase by consumers, and thirdly applicable state and local sales taxes. Through this the administration is projecting that the state will take in $350 million annually in marijuana tax revenue as the program is up and running.
Like the Governor has stated in the past, “the pressure will be on” to legalize cannabis in the state and for lawmakers to approve it “this year.” Hopefully in the months to come we will see what changes have been made for New York as we move into 2021.
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