New York could be well on its way to legalizing a recreational marijuana market. Earlier this week, State Senator Liz Krueger teamed up with Assembly Member Crystal People-Stokes to hold a public hearing over a piece of legislation entitled the “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” which aims to establish a retail cannabis commerce in the great state of New York similar to what is underway out west in Colorado and Washington.
Not unlike other proposals intended to give citizens the right to purchase, sell, and consume marijuana without fear of prosecution, Krueger’s bill is relatively cut-and-dried when it comes to its proposed regulatory efforts. Essentially, the measure would strip away the criminal elements associated with marijuana prohibition by allowing adults 21 and over the freedom to walk down to their friendly neighborhood pot shop and purchase a fat sack of the green stuff. Meanwhile, this weed-slinging concept would generate a king’s fortune for the state in tax revenue, while also preventing tens of thousands of non-violent offenders from becoming a product of the criminal justice system.
Although Krueger is not enthusiastic about labeling her proposal a draft to legalize pot for recreational use, she understands that prohibiting New Yorkers from consuming the herb has been a failed policy, and it is time for a change. The bill “is not intended as legislation to endorse the use of marijuana for recreational purposes,” she said. “Rather a recognition that decade after decade, we see a significant percentage of Americans who wish to use marijuana recreationally do so. And at least in our state [they] face serious criminal charges from doing so. [They] use the resources of our police, our courts and our jail systems, and cost our taxpayers an enormous amount of money to go through the prosecution of such cases.”
There has been significant progress in 2014 in New York pot reform. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo put his seal of approval on the Compassionate Care Act, which legalized a statewide medical marijuana program, and just last month New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his administration would finally adhere to the state’s nearly 40-year-old decriminalization law and stop busting stoners in possession of less than 25 grams of weed.
However, Krueger admits New York lawmakers are nowhere near ready to consider the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana. In fact, she claims her latest bill doesn’t stand a chance of surviving the upcoming legislative session, but she believes the only way to change that attitude is by keeping the subject of legal marijuana open for discussion through frequent public forums.
Unfortunately, even if Krueger’s bill does manage to pass, it would come with a tax of $50 per ounce in an effort to “discourage” New Yorkers from buying pot legally. Yet, she claims one of her primary goals is to snuff out the black market, which is virtually impossible as long as unreasonable tax rates are attached to pot sales.
Perhaps the time has come for High Times to establish a round table of drug policy experts and common-sense wielding American citizens to help lost lawmakers transform three-legged legislation to legalize the leaf into well-rounded bills that actually have a chance at benefiting New York, rather than filing fruitless measures that are never expected to pass.