Top New York Democrats Seek To Change Cannabis Tax

Lawmaker says New York must “simplify the tax structure of adult-use cannabis.”
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A pair of influential New York lawmakers are seeking to overhaul the state’s tax structure for adult-use cannabis sales, which they say is currently too complicated.

Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the majority leader of the state assembly, and state Sen. Jeremy Cooney, both Democrats, announced a proposal on Monday that would make major changes to how the Empire State taxes recreational cannabis sales. 

As reported by NY1, under the proposed legislation, “the current tax which levies based on potency would be replaced with an increase in the current excise tax.” The outlet noted that it was “not immediately clear what the fiscal implications of the change would be if granted final approval.”

“After careful consideration, it became clear that we need to simplify the tax structure of adult-use cannabis,” People-Stokes said, as quoted by NY1. “As the state continues to build out licensed cannabis operations, a simpler tax structure will be better for businesses and consumers. It is imperative to establish the licensed cannabis marketplace as the best option for consumers and stamp out the illicit cannabis operations popping up all over the state. This new tax approach will ultimately lead to thriving cannabis businesses at all levels of the supply chain. We will see higher tax revenues, which will result in more funds being reinvested in communities and invested in education and other important programs.”

Cooney echoed that, saying that if New York is to meet its “goal of building the most diverse and inclusive cannabis market in the nation, we must create an environment where small businesses can thrive.”

“Replacing the potency tax with an increase in the excise tax will allow licensed operators, including social equity operators, to sell competitively-priced products and be less susceptible to undercutting by illicit market prices without sacrificing revenues to be reinvested and used for valuable community programming,” Cooney said.

According to an official legislative summary of the bill, the measure increases “the tax from nine to sixteen percent of the amount charged for the sale or transfer of adult-use cannabis products to a retail customer; removes requirements that records reflect the total amount of THC content of the adult-use cannabis products sold to or produced by persons who sell such products; makes related provisions.”

Peoples-Stokes was heavily involved in the effort to legalize marijuana in New York, which officially ended the prohibition on recreational pot use in 2021.

Last year, after the state approved the first 52 cultivation licenses for the new recreational cannabis program, Peoples-Stokes said that the state was on its “way towards realizing our goal of creating a viable and inclusive path for minorities and small farmers to have the opportunity to create generational wealth for their families and communities.”

Her new tax proposal comes at a time when the state is looking to expand the nascent cannabis program.

Last week, regulators in New York announced they are doubling the number of cannabis retailer licenses, going from an original plan of 150 to 300.

“With this expansion, more entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the first wave of this industry, allowing them to capitalize on the growing demand for cannabis products,” Tremaine Wright, chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board, said at the time. “As more businesses enter this market, the innovation and competition will increase, leading to better quality experiences for consumers. The expansion of New York’s cannabis market will benefit everyone involved in this exciting industry.” 

According to NY1, the new tax measure from Peoples-Stokes and Cooney is “being proposed as New York lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul are negotiating a broader $227 billion budget plan that is expected to pass by April 1, the start of New York’s fiscal year.”

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