The State of New York, Recreational Legalization Finally Declared
After much expectation, state legislators decided to vote in favour of the proposed legalization of recreational cannabis with the support and signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo stating that “New York has a long history as the nation’s progressive capital, and this important legislation continues this legacy." On March 31, 2021, New York officially became the fifteenth state in the United States to allow recreational marijuana.
The law was passed with 40 votes to 23 in the Senate, while the Assembly voted with 100 votes to 49 against.Thus, the new bill also creates an “automatic expungement of previous cannabis-related convictions”, says the governor, it is also “a historic day – one that corrects the wrongs of the past by ending harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State economy…”
These new terms mean more than just the free use of recreational cannabis. They are also “a critical first step in the fight against racial disparities caused by the war on drugs that has been going on for too long,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate majority leader. The decision was welcomed and recognized by NORML, a large pro-cannabis organization.
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The State of New York has estimated that the legalization of cannabis could generate tax revenues amounting to 350 million dollars, or about 288 million euros per year as well as the creation of 60,000 new jobs.
The new legislation, which is expected to be implemented in the next one to two years, allows many new rights and freedoms. Indeed, sales of hemp flowers will be authorized, adults (21 years old) will be entitled to possess and buy cannabis. Those previously convicted of cannabis possession or use will have their criminal record removed, and adults will now be able to go free with a maximum of 85 grams of cannabis at their disposal. In addition, consumer sites and delivery services will be set up.
However, cannabis products will be subject to a state tax that will collect 9% of revenues, followed by a local tax of 4%. Thus, 25% of the revenues will go to the county and 75% to the municipalities. The funds raised will be used in part to support the fight against drug addiction and for education. Tax revenues will also be used to “invest in communities that have suffered disproportionately from the marijuana ban”, a source of inequality for communities of colour.
This advance in terms of legislation heralds a certain economic progress for the state as well as the beginning of a race equity fight.