Gov. Cuomo signed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis into law Wednesday.
The New York State Legislature voted Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana. The Senate voted 40-23 in favor and the Assembly approved it 100-49.
“New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy,” Cuomo said.
New Yorkers 21 and over will be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana. It will have a 13 percent sales tax, with 9 percent going to the state and 4 percent to localities.
The state said tax collection is projected to reach $350 million annually and has the potential to create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.
Marijuana was decriminalized in the state in 2019 but previous attempts to legalize it failed.
Criminal justice reform advocates applauded the legislation.
“For decades, New York State’s racist war on marijuana ensnared thousands of our clients — nearly all of whom are from Black and Latinx communities — resulting in needless incarceration and a host of other devastating consequences that inevitably arise from contacts with the criminal legal system,” The Legal Aid Society said. “This landmark legislation will right many of those injustices.”
Advocates and critics said minorities were unfairly impacted by the drug laws.
“For years, New York marijuana convictions have caused immeasurable harm to immigrant communities across New York State,” said Jose Chapa of the Immigrant Defense Project.
But NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea voiced concern about the changes.
“I hope I’m missing something but it appears it is legalizing the smoking of marijuana outside,” he said Wednesday on WPIX. “That’s not something that most other states did. They legalized marijuana but it was still illegal to smoke outside and in public.”
Shea said it’s “troubling” that it won’t be a police matter.
“I don’t know what we’re going to be telling New Yorkers when they call up and say there’s people smoking in front of my house or apartment building or I take my kids to a parade, whether it’s on Eastern Parkway or on Fifth Avenue, and there are people smoking marijuana next to me as I try to enjoy the parade,” he said.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, head of the Catholic Church in Queens and Brooklyn, called the legislation disappointing.
“Marijuana is a gateway drug that is not good for your health and has the same carcinogenic effects that cigarettes do,” he said. “With this law, more young people will start to use marijuana because they think they are invincible and nothing will affect them.”
A goal of the state is to have 50 percent of licenses for selling marijuana to go to a minority- or woman- owned business enterprise, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans.
The bill establishes the Office of Cannabis Management, a five-member board, with three appointed by Cuomo and one by each house of the Legislature. The OCM will be an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority.
All cannabis taxes will be deposited in a state revenue fund for administering programs and implementing the law.
Remaining funding will be split, with 40 percent going to education, 40 percent to a community grants reinvestment fund and 20 percent to drug treatment and public education funds.
The bill also creates automatic expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction for something that would now be legal.
“This law comprehensively addresses the harms of overcriminalization and establishes one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the nation,” said Melissa Moore, New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Through this sweeping legislation, New York is delivering reforms that place community reinvestment, social equity and justice at the core of the law. At long last, victory is here.”