In September of 2014, Senator Liz Kreuger (D-Manhattan) announced plans to introduce legislation in 2015 that would legalize, regulate and tax a retail marijuana market in New York. Three months later, in December, Senator Krueger hosted a public forum for her Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) to lead and encourage open discussion of the potential fiscal, economic, law and health benefits and risks that may arise from legalization.
The bill (1747) has now, officially, been filed. The four co-sponsors of the bill are Senator Martin Dilan, Senator Brad Hoylman, Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Senator Gustavo Rivera.
Aside from the potential fiscal and economic benefits, Senator Kreuger has cited the gross racial disparity in marijuana related arrests as motivation for sponsoring this legalization measure. She elaborated in a released statement, “Prohibition of marijuana is a policy that just hasn’t worked, no matter how you look at it, and it’s time to have an honest conversation about what we should do next. The illegal marijuana economy is alive and well, and our unjust laws are branding nonviolent New Yorkers, especially young adults, as criminals, creating a vicious cycle that ruins lives and needlessly wastes taxpayer dollars. Worst of all, this system has resulted in a civil rights disaster: African Americans are dramatically more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use among both groups.”
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act establishes the State Liquor Authority as the regulatory body for the program, and regulates marijuana in the same manner as alcohol, except that the minimum age for legal possession is 18 instead of 21. However, a person must be 21 to make a legal purchase.
If MRTA is approved by legislators, the State Liquor Authority would be permitted to license cannabis cultivators, producers, transporters and retailers. It also allows for home cultivation of up to 6 plants. Under this amendment, individual counties will be allowed to decide whether dispensaries will be permitted to operate. This bill also sets up a tax structure which allows localities to charge sales tax on retail cannabis sales. A portion of the state tax revenue collected will go towards re-entry and substance abuse programs, job training programs for low-income households, and to communites with high-unemployment rates.
Sen. Krueger sponsored and filed a similar bill last session, but it did receive enough support.
Perhaps this session will be different considering how the views of so many Americans have been influenced by two more states legalizing recreational marijuana last election day. The opinions of many New Yorkers have also possibly been influenced by Mayor DeBlasio’s orders for the The New York City police department to halt the practice of “buy and bust” marijuana arrests, and through the roll-out of the state’s first set of medical marijuana rules. True cannabis education is spreading rapidly across the nation, and perhaps New York lawmakers have caught on.
photo credit: Liz Krueger Facebook