Less than two years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that marijuana was a “gateway drug” and that he could not support legalizing it. Last week, he made legalizing marijuana a cornerstone of his State of the State address, saying that it could generate $300 million for New York “in a way that creates an economic opportunity for poor communities and people who paid the price” for prohibition. But how does Cuomo’s plan stack up against the other legalization proposals in the state, and across the country?.
Melissa Moore, the deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said that advocates are still digging through the 191 pages of legislation, but that she’s optimistic.
“Based on the tenor of the conversation and the debate that has already been going, New York is poised to legalize, potentially, in the most progressive way that we’ve seen so far,” Moore told Gothamist. “But we have to be incredibly mindful about the details.”.
Cuomo’s Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act would create an Office of Cannabis Management that would oversee recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, medical marijuana, and hemp. That office would also create separate licensing processes for growers, distributors and sellers. A ban on growers getting into the retail market is aimed at preventing vertical integration, and the governor said that jobs in the cannabis industry will be “good union jobs” (the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union currently represents medical marijuana employees).
The legislation also calls for a 20 percent state tax and a two percent local tax on sales from wholesalers to resellers, while growers would be taxed by the gram..
The governor’s proposal would automatically seal criminal records for marijuana offenses that are no longer crimes, and prioritize minority and women-owned businesses for licenses to grow and sell cannabis. Money generated from the program would go to small business development funds and substance abuse programs.
If Cuomo’s legislation prevails, marijuana would be legalized shortly after its passage, with sales set for April of 2020..