NY Lawmakers Prepare to Make A Move on Cannabis Legalization

In New York, recreational cannabis is currently illegal; however, possession of minor quantities of cannabis has been decriminalized and is viewed as a misdemeanor. Negotiations between the legislature and the governor’s office about regulating marijuana in the 2021 session are still underway as of March 2021.

A bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in New York is approaching implementation, and a full bill may be voted on as soon as next week.  Instead of waiting for it to be included in the budget, New York politicians are ready to plan initial action on regulating medical marijuana. Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversees the budget process.

The final details are being hammered out for a vote before the state budget is due on April 1, according to state Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger (D). She confirmed that the governor is active in continuing negotiations.

“We are working hard on a three-way agreed upon bill that could pass the Legislature before we get to the budget,” Krueger said in a phone interview with Bloomberg Government. “I feel like we are 95% there. We have taken some big steps towards getting this done.”

Separating weed concerns from debates over the state’s nearly $193.3 billion budget package for fiscal 2022 raises the measure’s probability of becoming law. Democrats, who have a supermajority of both chambers, have enough votes to overturn every veto if they work together.

Pressing this topic now demonstrates the Legislature’s trust in Cuomo, who is embroiled in a slew of controversies, including claims of sexual harassments or derogatory conduct from six people.  A criminal investigation is still underway into his administration’s reaction to Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.

According to Krueger, legislators are moving toward framing the bill to earmark a substantial volume of tax money – no matter how large or small – for social and community investment.  Cuomo has stated that he intends to steer $100 million to a social equity fund to assist people affected by drug possession arrests.

The governor’s office predicts that a legal cannabis initiative will generate $350 million per year if fully enforced.

However, certain details remained to be sorted out, such as how many plants should be cultivated in a private home and how to assess intoxicated driving by someone who has used marijuana.

Nonetheless, a consensus on a final measure seems to be stronger than at any time in the bill’s existence. Marijuana reform proposals have failed in recent years in the state Legislature due to core disputes about revenue generated from marijuana purchases, as well as traffic safety.

Procedurally, legislators will be happy to enact the bill outside of the state budget due at the end of the month, allowing them more control on how the marijuana scheme is structured.

Meanwhile, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association released a study over the weekend outlining economic reasons with the existing medical marijuana industry to further accelerate the adult-use initiative.

“The data outlined in these reports demonstrates once and for all the benefit of relying on the medical cannabis industry to create a safe, well-regulated, and equitable adult-use program,” NYMCIA President Ngiste Abebe said. “By utilizing the knowledge and infrastructure of the existing providers, New York can bring much-needed economic growth to the state at a critical time in its recovery while also cementing its reputation as a progressive leader.”

On Monday after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is “very close” to legalizing the drug for commercial use, causing stocks to surge.  Tilray and Aphria shares were up as much as 14% and 12%, while Marijuana ETFs such as the ETFMG Alternative Harvest and AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETFs saw an increase of up to 4%.

Cuomo, like many other states that have discussed the effects of drug legalization, stated that the initiative could help collect money for the state’s debt, which has risen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, one BTIG researcher claims Cuomo is lobbying for drug reform in order to divert focus away from the sexual assault charges leveled against him. According to BTIG, a vote on the bill could take place before the state’s budget is due on April 1st.

If New York legalizes cannabis, it will be a watershed moment in the cannabis legalization and investment movement, when the fourth most populous state will allow its people to use the drug lawfully.

The deadline set by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to regulate cannabis by budget is less than a month away. However, several of the state’s drug policy lobbying organizations, as well as key politicians who have advocated legalization this year and in previous years, oppose Cuomo’s plan. The deadline for legalizing cannabis by bill, though, isn’t until June, and discussions about whether and, more importantly, how to regulate are heating up.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal drew immediate criticism from the political left when he introduced it. During a press conference held by Zoom, ““Clearly, his tax proposals are all wrong, clearly his social equity proposals are all wrong, so there are a number of things that need to be fixed and if they’re not fixed, we’ll be here next year doing the same thing.”   New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said.

As a result, Democratic lawmakers introduced the Drug Control and Tax Act, a revised version of a measure introduced last year (MRTA).

While both bills share the same purpose, they pursue it in somewhat different ways.

For example, the bills disagreed over how to handle fines for the selling of cannabis to those aged 18 to 21. Initially, the governor’s bill aimed to make this a class D offense punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison. The legislature’s measure, on the other hand, will recognize this crime as a misdemeanor.


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