New York lawmakers reach historic deal on a marijuana legalization bill

Published on March 25, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under fire for alleged sexual harassment, may have conceded on a tax issue to pass a legalization bill and claim a much-needed political win. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)

New York state lawmakers have reportedly finalized an agreement to legalize marijuana sales to adults over the age of 21. The final bill would clear the way for retail sales to begin as early as 2022.

The final bill would clear the way for retail sales to start in 2022.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the chamber, said the bill will likely be brought up for a vote next week.

New York legislators have come close to passing marijuana legalization several times in recent years, but have been unable to finalize a deal. Since 2012, 15 states have legalized adult-use cannabis. New York’s neighbor, New Jersey, officially legalized last month.

What’s allowed, what’s not

The New York Times reported on some details in the final bill this morning. They include:

  • Allowing homegrow, with a limit of six plants per household
  • Allowing cannabis delivery
  • Allowing cannabis consumption lounges (with no alcohol)
  • Creating a five-member cannabis control board to oversee and regulate the industry
  • The elimination of penalties for up to three ounces
  • Automatic expungement of prior cannabis convictions
  • Instituting a 13% cannabis excise tax on adult-use products
  • A goal of 50% of licenses issued to equity applicants
  • Creating equity programs that include business loans, grants, and start-up incubators
  • Reinvesting cannabis tax revenues in communities most harmed by the war on drugs

Cuomo let go of the tax revenue

The long fight over the cannabis tax revenue appears to have been won by legislators, like Peoples-Stokes, who have insisted that those monies return to the communities most harmed by the war on drugs. In past years, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had insisted that his office control the tax revenue. Cuomo’s office has estimated that, once a legal marijuana industry is fully mature, it could bring the state about $350 million annually.

This month, with Cuomo in real political peril for the first time in his life, the governor may have compromised on that issue in order to claim a significant and dramatic legislative win.

Past sticking points for legalization in New York have included lack of support from suburban Democrats and concerns over how to address drivers suspected of driving high. It remains unclear how any agreement would address impaired driving.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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