by Stefan Lonce
After years of lagging behind other states on the issue, New York lawmakers and governor Andrew Cuomo have finalized a deal to legalize the use of recreational marijuana…although it looks like it may be more expensive for those who partake.
According to Senate Finance Committee chair Liz Krueger, the agreement would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older; allow for personal possession of up to three ounces; establish Amsterdam-style cafes in which marijuana could be smoked; and would include a 13 percent tax on sales — 9 percent of which would go to the state, and 4 percent to local governments. Distributors would also pay an excise tax, which could be as high as three cents per milligram of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis; that tax would be on a sliding scale, based on the type of product and how strong it is.
As part of the deal, cities, towns, and villages may also choose not to approve retail and delivery weed within their jurisdiction.
The bill is scheduled to be taken up in the State Assembly and the Senate, shortly before the state budget is due. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Office of Cannabis Management established in the proposal would report to a five-member board, with three members appointed by the governor, and the State Assembly and Senate appointing one each. According to one estimate from the governor’s office, legal weed could bring in around $350 million in taxes annually — which would serve as a major boost to the state after the pandemic put a dent in sales-tax revenue collected by New York State.
Tax revenue from sales would first go toward the operations of the Office of Cannabis Management and police officer training to detect impaired driving. Forty percent of the remaining revenue would go toward school aid, another 40 percent would be put into a fund establishing grants for social equity, and another 20 percent would go toward drug-treatment and public-education programs.