New York lawmakers are hoping that the recent legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts and Maine will inspire the state’s legislative forces to take similar action in the 2017 session.
Two bills—A3506 and S3040—were recently introduced in the New York General Assembly and in the Senate aimed at creating a system that would allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated across the state in a manner similar to beer. The proposals would enact the “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” which would give adults 18 and older the freedom to possess up to two ounces of weed and cultivate as many as six plants at home for personal use. It would also give way to the creation of a fully legal cannabis industry whereby adults 21 and older could purchase cannabis products at retail dispensaries statewide.
“The intent of this act is to regulate, control, and tax marihuana in a manner similar to alcohol, generate millions of dollars in new revenue, prevent access to marihuana by those under the age of eighteen years, reduce the illegal drug market and reduce violent crime, reduce the racially disparate impact of existing marihuana laws, allow industrial hemp to be farmed in New York state, and create new industries and increase employment,” the proposal reads.
So far, eight states, including neighboring Massachusetts, have legalized the leaf in this capacity.
There are some who believe that the evolving cannabis laws in parts of New England might be enough to twist the arms of state lawmakers this year and get them to take the issue of cannabis reform a little more seriously than they have in the past.
There is even some evidence to suggest that New York governor Andrew Cuomo may be opening up to this type of reform.
It has been a year since the state implemented its medical marijuana program, which has been, for the most part, the laughing stock of the nation because of its ultra-restrictive, toe-in-the-water approach. However, the Cuomo administration seems to have opened its eyes to some of the problems surrounding the Compassionate Care Act. State health official recently made some crucial changes to the program, including the addition of chronic pain to its list of qualified conditions, which is intended to make marijuana available to thousands more people all over the state.
Furthermore, Cuomo said last month that he intends to clarify the state’s decades old decriminalization law—a move intended to stop people from going to jail for simply holding a little weed.
“The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo said.
But it is conceivable, and highly likely, that the idea of fully legalizing marijuana in New York will make the state’s law enforcement agencies a little nervous and perhaps even cause them to throw up some resistance.
However, with a recent poll showing that 37 percent of police officers all across the nation believe that weed should be legalized for recreational use, there is a distinct possibility that they might not throw their backs out trying to sabotage this reform. Especially, since legalization in the Empire State would make it much easier for those police forces who have already expressed concern about the potential increase in interstate drug trafficking the minute Massachusetts opens up its first retail pot shop.
“We’re anticipating a problem in our border counties,” said Peter Kehoe, director of the New York Sheriff’s Association. “I know it is going to be attractive to some of our residents to go over there and come back stoned.”
Interestingly, a report from Politico shows that New York’s medical marijuana program alone isn’t really cutting the muster when it comes to generating the projected millions of dollars in tax revenue. This could be another reason for the state’s government to entertain the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in the coming months.