Adult-Use Cannabis is Now Legal in New York

Adult-Use Cannabis is Now Legal in New York

On Tuesday, New York legislators decisively voted to pass a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for adults in the Empire State. 

In a show of overwhelming support, the state senate passed the bill 40-23 before handing it off to the assembly, where it was approved in a 100-49 vote. Despite the bill being released a short three days prior, Tuesday’s approval process took only a matter of hours. 

Today the legislation then headed to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk, where within hours he signed the bill into law.


“Legalizing adult-use cannabis isn’t just about creating a new market that will provide jobs and benefit the economy—it’s also about justice for long-marginalized communities and ensuring those who’ve been unfairly penalized in the past will now get a chance to benefit. I look forward to signing this legislation into law,” the governor said in a statement signaling his support for the bill. 

Restorative justice and equity have been critical points in the discussions between the governors’ office and legislators during the past weeks. As it stands, New York’s legalization bill will do more than simply legalize marijuana. Senate Majority Leader and co-sponsor of the bill, Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D), said,

“There were many important aspects of this legislation that needed to be addressed correctly—especially the racial disparities that have plagued our state’s response to marijuana use and distribution as well as ensuring public safety—and I am proud that through strong collaboration, we have reached the finish line.”

Equity Provisions In MRTA

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) will also immediately expunge prior marijuana convictions from New Yorker’s records as well as create protections for cannabis workers against discrimination in housing, educational access, and parental rights. In addition, marijuana odor will no longer be sufficient enough reason for police to conduct a search. 

It seems the governor has also acquiesced on another sticking point during preliminary discussions—the reinvestment of marijuana tax revenue in minority communities most affected by prohibition.

With the MRTA Bill, legislators aim to issue 50% of cannabis business licenses to social equity applicants. Additionally, 40% of cannabis tax revenue will go into a minority reinvestment fund, another 40% would be allocated to public schools, and 20% would fund drug rehabilitation programs. 

“My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Liz Krueger (D) who co-sponsored the bill alongside Stewart Cousins. “I believe we have achieved that in this bill, as well as addressing the concerns and input of stakeholders across the board.” 

Other Provisions In MRTA

The other major hurdle stalling progress on legalization efforts regarded whether driving while impaired by marijuana would remain a misdemeanor offense or be reduced to a traffic violation. 

For now, driving under the influence of cannabis will continue to be a misdemeanor, though the Department of Health will begin a study searching for technology that can more accurately determine if a driver is under the effects of marijuana while operating the vehicle.

Other provisions in the MRTA include allowances for adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use with a maximum of twelve plants per household, allowances for marijuana delivery services, and the creation of a new Office of Cannabis Management that would operate within the umbrella of the New York State Liquor Authority. 

“After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State,” said Governor Cuomo.

Legal Marijuana Is Coming To New York

Legal Marijuana Is Coming To New York

According to the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), the Empire State is “very close” to legalizing marijuana. 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) echoed this sentiment on Monday, stating that lawmakers plan to advance the stand-alone legalization bill before passing the budget, which is due on April 1st. However, questions regarding traffic stops and driving while impaired currently have legislators deadlocked.

“We are extremely close. We have reached a little bit of an impasse right now, and it has to do with impaired driving.” State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

No One Wants To Arrest Unlawfully

Law enforcement agencies have expressed concerns that the classification of driving under the influence of cannabis as a traffic infraction would send the wrong message to the public and encourage New Yorkers to drive while intoxicated from marijuana use. The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York maintains that driving while on cannabis should remain a misdemeanor crime.

In its current form, roadside marijuana testing cannot determine how recently a driver may have used cannabis, adding an extra layer of difficulty in policing motorists who use marijuana.

Despite the impasse, Stewart-Cousins remains optimistic about the bill’s eventual passing, saying

“It’s a matter of when, not if.” 

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Originally, Gov. Cuomo included his own version of the legislation in his annual budget request, though it was omitted Monday in a Senate resolution. It seems state legislators would prefer to handle the marijuana issue outside of budget negotiations. 

New York’s Third Opportunity to Legalize Marijuana


This would be New York’s third chance at passing marijuana reform legislation—the last two failed attempts took place as part of Cuomo’s executive budget process. The governor made his eagerness to see legalization finally come to fruition clear with a football analogy, saying, “This is not about getting in the red zone anymore; we have to get over the goal line this time. We need the seven points.”

Past efforts from the governor to bring pot to New York have flopped largely due to disagreements within his own party regarding equity and revenue spending. While state lawmakers sought to spend large swaths of new tax revenue on supporting minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition, Gov. Cuomo’s previous plans allocated the majority of funds under state control.  

Gov. Cuomo isn’t the only one ready for recreational marijuana to hit the state. According to a recent survey conducted by Sienna College, New Yorkers overwhelmingly support legalizing cannabis for adult use. The poll found that 59% of those surveyed were in favor of legalization, while only a meager 33% were opposed. Last year, in the neighboring state of New Jersey, voters decisively cast ballots in favor of a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis, allowing lawmakers to set up the necessary regulatory systems for a recreational market.   

During his Monday press conference, Cuomo said, “I think this should’ve passed years ago. I think too many people have been imprisoned, incarcerated, and punished. Too many of those people are Black, Latino, and poor. It’s exaggerated the injustice of the justice system.”

New York Expected to Legalize in 2019

New York Expected to Legalize in 2019

Just fewer than two years since insisting it was a “gateway drug,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is singing a different tune regarding the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in The Empire State.

“It’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” Governor Cuomo said in February of 2017. “There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana.”

Fast forward to present day, and Governor Cuomo is in favor of establishing a regulated, legal market. This was showcased during a recent speech when Cuomo said, “Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all.”

“Legalize Adult Use of Recreational Marijuana,” is also included in his agenda for the first 100 days of 2019. Ending the racial disparity in marijuana related arrests was a major motivator in his shift from opposition. According to the agenda, “Governor Cuomo will end the disproportionate criminalization of one race over another by regulating, legalizing and taxing adult use of recreational marijuana.”

This shift in opinion did not happen overnight. After reading a report from the state Health Department in July of last year, Cuomo acknowledged that, “The situation on marijuana is changing.” The report, titled “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” started with a brief history of cannabis in the United states, covering how it was widely used as medicine and sold in pharmacies until the 1930s. The report concluded that there are more advantages to establishing a regulated market than there are disadvantages.

One of the most compelling potential benefits mentioned in the report was the tax revenue the state could collect. An analysis released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer estimated that the legal cannabis market in New York could exceed $3 billion. The tax revenue estimated from sales could be as much as $436 million each year. That amount is difficult to ignore when state schools and law enforcement agencies would benefit greatly from the funds.

Job creation, economic development, fewer minority arrests and the opportunity to explore different options regarding personal health were also listed among the potential benefits that may come with a legal market in New York. “The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in N.Y.S. outweigh the potential negative impacts,” the Health Department concluded. “Areas that may be a cause for concern can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations.”

Governor Cuomo also recognizes that maintaining prohibition may soon be a waste of state resources since people can make legal purchases in Massachusetts, where retail shops opened doors to the public in November of last year. Legislators in New Jersey are also working to pass legislation to legalize the recreational use and retail sale, and Connecticut is predicted to legalize soon as well.

If New York beats New Jersey to the punch, it will become the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. It would also be second to legalize by state legislature instead of a voter initiative. The Pew Research Center released a poll in 2018 which revealed that 62 percent of people in America are in favor of legalizing marijuana. An even larger number of millennials, 74 percent, responded that they supported legalization. The number of those in favor has increased since 2015 when only 53 percent reported that they believed cannabis should be legal in the United States.

New York Liquor Stores Want To Sell Marijuana

New York Liquor Stores Want To Sell Marijuana

Instead of creating a whole new system of specialized stores to distribute marijuana when it becomes legal, New York should just allow existing liquor and wine retail outlets to sell cannabis to adults. That’s the position of a new advocacy effort launched by owners of booze shops this month.

“With more than 2,000 wine and liquor stores from Buffalo to Montauk, we offer existing retail space with quick and cheap access to the market in every corner of the state,” reads the website for the group, which is called The Last Store on Main Street. “That means more tax revenue, and sooner, for the State to fulfill basic responsibilities and invest in the future of our neighborhoods.”

The group, which previously defeated an effort to allow wine sales in grocery stores, says that its members shops “operate under a highly regulated system that can easily and reasonably be expanded to cover marijuana retail without building new bureaucracy that only serves to eat into the tax revenues the industry creates.”

Jeff Saunders, the group’s founder, said alcohol retailers are worried that unless they are allowed to sell cannabis, their revenues could suffer.

“Recreational marijuana sales have resulted in significant declines in wine and liquor sales in other states, resulting in job loss and even stores closing,” he said, according to the news outlet New York Upstate.

On the group’s website, New Yorkers who agree with the goal of allowing weed sales in liquor stores can send prewritten letters to their state lawmakers that describe the move an “obvious win-win opportunity for a bedrock industry of New York’s Main Street economies and the future of our state.”

The effort to shape how legalization could roll out comes as the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is taking steps to bring about the end of marijuana prohibition.

Earlier this year, Cuomo directed the state Health Department to study legalizing marijuana, a move that led to a report that found that doing so would have more benefits than risks.

State officials are conducting a series of listening sessions around the state on the topic, and the governor created a task force to draft legalization legislation that lawmakers can consider in 2019.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are already holding hearings on ways to end cannabis prohibition.

New York Bill Would Require Medical Marijuana Be Covered By Public Health Insurance

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

New York Liquor Stores Want To Sell Marijuana

Expand Medical Marijuana Coverage, New York Senate Report Recommends

Expand Medical Marijuana Coverage, New York Senate Report Recommends

Two days after New York assembly members filed legislation that would require certain health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana, a report from members of the state’s Senate is recommending a similar move.

The state should be “expanding health insurance coverage options for medical marijuana as a method to reduce overall usage of opioid medications,” reads one of the 11 recommendations included in the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction’s report released on Wednesday.

On Monday, 18 members of the legislature’s other chamber introduce a bill that would require publicly funded insurance programs to cover medical cannabis.

Touting previous decisions this year to allow doctors to recommend cannabis to people with substance use disorder and for treatment of acute pain, the task force noted that “studies have indicated that medical marijuana can be an effective tool in the fight against opioid overdoses.”

Senators on the task force wrote that New York should “build on the State Workers’ Compensation Board’s decision that coverage for medical marijuana is permissible as it relates to workers’ compensation claims.”

“This means that individuals (or rather their employers) prescribed medical marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act can legally seek payments from their insurer for reimbursement. Insurers offering coverage outside of the workers’ compensation system are not required to provide coverage for medical marijuana, so individuals often cover the cost out-of-pocket, which is expensive. New York must address the disparity between medical marijuana coverage for those injured at work and the lack of coverage for individuals outside the workers’ compensation system.”

To illustrate the need for expanded coverage, the report highlights the story of a nurse who successfully used medical cannabis for pain relief.

“A nurse by profession, Ms. Rouso-Little explained how after years of opioid treatments for her pain, including fentanyl patches and pills which made her sleep for more than 14 hours a day, she switched to medical marijuana,” it says. “Getting off opioids not only helped relieve her pain more effectively, but, she was able to return to work and her life was transformed.”

“I have my life back and am opiate-free.”

The moves to expand medical cannabis come as state officials are considering legalizing marijuana more broadly.

New York Bill Would Require Medical Marijuana Be Covered By Public Health Insurance

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Expand Medical Marijuana Coverage, New York Senate Report Recommends

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