New Yorkers can now own up to 3 ounces of cannabis under a legalization bill signed by the government on Wednesday.rew Cuomo, while sales of recreational marijuana won’t become legal for about 18 months, until the state makes regulations.

Advocates of criminal justice reform hope it will also help correct the inequalities of a system that has locked up people of color for marijuana-related offenses at disproportionate rates. The legislation provides protections for cannabis users in the workplace, housing, family court and in schools, colleges and universities, and sets the goal of providing half of marijuana licenses to people from under-represented communities.

New York will begin to automatically clear criminal records of people with certain previous marijuana-related convictions, and state law enforcement will not be able to arrest or prosecute people for possession of marijuana up to 3 ounces. It’s a step beyond a 2019 law that removed many previous convictions for possession of marijuana and reduced the penalty for possession of small amounts.

The law also allows “to use, smoke, ingest or consume cannabis or concentrated cannabis”. New Yorkers cannot smoke or vape cannabis in places prohibited by state law, including workplaces, colleges and universities, hospitals, and within 100 feet of a school.

New York Police Department commissioner Dermot Shea said his interpretation of the bill is that it makes it legal to smoke marijuana in public.

“We are concerned about what this means for New Yorkers and we are looking at this bill – I hope I missed something – but it looks like it legalizes the use of marijuana outdoors,” he said. Shea said. “And that’s not something most other states have done.”

While the market will take some time to establish itself, estimates from the trade publication Marijuana Business Daily show that New York could become the largest on the east coast – generating a potential of $ 2.3 billion in annual sales. ‘here its fourth year.

Cuomo said it could take years to raise around $ 300 million in tax revenue, although Republicans are skeptical that the state will see as much. California was forced to cut the state’s 2019 budget estimate by $ 223 million due to slower-than-expected pot sales.

Marijuana tax revenues would first cover the cost of state regulation and enforcement of the marijuana legalization law, with the remainder being distributed among schools, drug treatment and prevention programs. addiction and a fund to invest in vocational skills, adult education, mental health and other services in communities that have borne the brunt of the national and state war on drugs.

New York will establish a 9% sales tax on cannabis, plus an additional 4% county and local tax and another tax based on the level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

The state will provide loans, grants and incubation programs to encourage participation in the cannabis industry by people from minority communities, as well as smallholder farmers, women and disabled veterans.

“Fifty percent is a really high bar to try and hit, but if it happened it would be amazing,” said Hillary Peckham, chief operator of Etain Health, a women-owned medical cannabis company in New York. York who is considering applying for a recreational. marijuana license if it becomes legal.

“The next step is to see how the regulations and the program are put in place to actually provide these opportunities,” added Peckham, whose company has four dispensaries in the state.

Social fairness has become a key theme in marijuana legalization in recent years, with new legal states trying to incorporate it and others seeking to compensate for the lack of diversity in the companies they approved earlier. But plans did not go as planned in many places.

Illinois, for example, has been touted for the fairness provisions in its 2019 law. But it has drawn criticism and lawsuits from some black-owned businesses that have been ignored. Illinois has since revised its process to address these issues.

New York joins at least 15 other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, including neighboring New Jersey. Voters decided to legalize the recreational and medical use of marijuana in South Dakota in November, although it is currently under challenge in the state Supreme Court.

Opponents of legalization include law enforcement organizations and groups representing parents.

“We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the severe youth vaping crisis and the continuing opioid epidemic, this nefarious legislation is counter-intuitive,” several organizations wrote in a letter. open at the beginning of the month.

Authorities in New York are planning to conduct a study that will examine the extent to which cannabis impairs driving and whether it depends on factors such as weather and metabolism.

The new law allows cities and towns to refuse to authorize adult cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing local law by December 31, 2021, or nine months after the date of registration. entry into force of the legislation. They cannot opt ​​out of legalization.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.)

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