On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill legalizing the use of recreational weed. This opens up a potential industry that can generate $350 million a year in tax revenues and create 60,000 new jobs. The new law “embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” Cuomo said in a statement. Experts foresee NY’s legal cannabis program to generate up to $3.5 billion a year in economic activity for the state.
NY To State Licenses for Recreational Weed Growers
The new law will issue state licenses for farmers, distributors, makers, and retail locations. They will get permission for their clients to consume products on-site, such as lounges. In addition, New York law enforcement will stop arresting or prosecuting citizens for marijuana possession of up to 3 ounces.
All previous convictions of low-level marijuana possession will now face review, and offenders will get charges dropped. Earlier in 2019, Cuomo signed a law that removed criminal penalties for minor possession. As a result, over 150,000 people sealed their previous marijuana convictions. This means the public will not have access to these records, which still exist. Instead, the new law will now drop the charges altogether.
Also, the new marijuana law aims to address the economic imbalance caused by local enforcement. 40% of revenues will now bankroll a social equity fund. In turn, these will fund programs to help those affected by previous marijuana arrests. Nonprofits and local government agencies can apply for funding for job placement, housing, or legal defense programs.
Cuomo’s signing makes New York the 15th state to legalize recreational weed. Earlier, neighbor New Jersey made the same decision. Apart from unburdening law enforcement officials, legalizing weed can bring back the tourism New York lost during the pandemic.
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Legal Framework Still Needed
Before the first New Yorker can light up the first legal sale, New York will need to hurdle a massive regulatory framework to deal with the new industry. However, estimates see a completion of the system within 18 months, so New York will likely start its weed business by next year at the earliest. Laura Schultz, executive director “Any time you’re starting a market from scratch, it takes time to set up,” said Laura Schultz, Rockefeller Institute of Government’s executive director thinks the benefits are worth the wait. “With the projections that I’ve been seeing, it’s going to be about $1.2 billion in the first year of recreational sales, and perhaps growing into about $4 billion or more in about four or five years,” she said.
Even with all the projected hard work, federal legalization of recreational weed can blow up states’ efforts. Legalizing marijuana on a national level can open up interstate trades and sprout national companies. “If federal marijuana or cannabis policy changes, the benefits of a self-contained industry within a state can evaporate,” Schultz said.
Timing Is Everything
Cuomo signed the bill at an opportune time. The movement to legalize marijuana started a few years ago but development went at a slower pace. With the governor currently embroiled in a number of sexual misconduct scandals, the signing is seen as an olive branch to progressives. This group is among the most vocal New Yorkers who want Cuomo out of office.
Watch the NBC News Now report where New York legalizes recreational marijuana:
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