• Deanna Clark-Esposito

New York State Cannabis Legalization



On March 31st, New York State (NYS) governor Cuomo signed "The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act," legalizing adult recreational use of Cannabis and Marijuana. The bill included a variety of action items dealing specifically with the regulation, taxation and education concerning cannabis. To facilitate the regulation of cannabis and implement related programs, the bill has created the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), under the NYS Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.


What was actually legalized?

Even though cannabis is legalized in the generalized sense of law enforcement, only up to 3 ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of cannabis concentrate are permitted as personal

possession outside of the home. For home growing, only 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants are permissible in the household of an adult over 21. In homes with multiple adults, only 6 mature and 6 immature plants are permitted. The literature summarizing the legislation offered by NYS doesn't explicitly state what the penalties for exceeding these limits are. It can be inferred however, that an individual carrying more than the specified limit will be seen as attempting to distribute and therefore prompt the need for a license.


Cities, towns and villages in NYS have discretion on whether retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses will permitted in their jurisdictions. This signifies that businesses will need consumption licenses to allow and advertise the use of cannabis products on their premises.


Other general laws regulating the use and manipulation of drugs still apply. Such prohibitions include but are not limited to: driving under the influence; child endangerment through inadequate storage or the child obtaining possession; or smoke-free air laws that designate where an individual may smoke. An action item within the legislation specifically tasked the OCM with conducting research to create a system of identifying when an individual is so impaired by marijuana use that they will be considered to meet the standard of a DUI.


Taxation


The previous medical marijuana system was expanded to permit a larger range of qualifying ailments but was also used as the basis for the taxation system herein. The new tax structure replaces the weight-based tax with a tax per milligram of THC at the distributor level. This tax will have varying rates depending on the final product. The actual sale of cannabis products will be subject to a 9 percent state excise tax for wholesale products and a 4 percent local excise tax for retail products.


Aside from the funds needed to administer the program and implement the law, the funds generated from cannabis taxation and licensing will be used for the following:

• 40% for Education

• 40% for Community Grants Reinvestment Fund

• 20% for Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund


Criminal Justice


The most important and unique action of this bill is the immediate expungement and

re-sentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction for an action that is now legal under the bill. Funding is also offered for any necessary fees or expenses in pursuing the re-sentencing or expungement.


The bill references marijuana being added to the the Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA), which regulates where smokers may smoke but does so to add a layer of protection to users being that the act has specific language to prevent discriminatory enforcement or harassment related to smoking. Although this was mentioned to avoid discrimination towards marijuana users, some local governments may establish more restrictive laws than the CIA.


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