New York Legislators and Mayor Attempt Again to Legalize Marijuana

A group of New York lawmakers prefiled a bill to legalize marijuana on Tuesday. The bill would legalize purchasing and using recreational marijuana in the state for adults who are older than 21 and allow individuals to grow up to six plants for personal use. 

Marijuana Moment reported that almost a third of the state’s senators co-sponsored the bill which New York Sen. Liz Krueger (D) sponsored. The bill is identical to one she put forth last year and is the fifth bill to legalize recreational marijuana that Krueger has sponsored since her first in 2013.  

“It is long past time for New York State to catch up with our neighbors and legalize, tax, and regulate adult-use marijuana,” Krueger said to Marijuana Moment. “I am cautiously optimistic about the chances of getting this done and done right—in a way that ensures that resources are directed to communities most directly impacted by the failed policies of prohibition.”

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that “this could be the year” for legalized marijuana in the state, citing that the state is facing a budget crisis which could be helped by taxing recreational pot, and that Albany has a Democratic supermajority this year. New Jersey also passed a referendum approving recreational use of marijuana in the last year, which adds pressure for the neighboring state to pass this legislation. 

Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, called for the legalization and announced a proposal for an Office of Cannabis Management as part of his State of the State agenda on Wednesday. According to the New York Times article, Cuomo said “I think this should have been passed years ago … this is a year where we do need the funding and a lot of New Yorkers are struggling. This year will give us the momentum to get it over the goal line.”  Cuomo has reportedly attempted to legalize marijuana two other times, but it has not happened due to disagreements on the distribution of tax dollars from the sales as well as sales licenses. 

In addition to an 18 percent tax on cannabis, the proposed bill includes provisions to address restorative justice, including expungements for cannabis convictions and loans for applicants hoping to start marijuana businesses. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.