On Wednesday, March 24, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that he and the state legislative body were “inches” away from passing a bill that would legalize marijuana. The very next day, both sides were able to come to terms on a deal which has been some time in the making. Per a memo obtained by CNN, a new body will be created, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM); it will be tasked with managing the regulation and taxation of the marijuana industry throughout New York State.
“We’ve been trying to legalize cannabis for three years. I’ve failed about every year. We’re close, but we’ve been close three times before,” Cuomo said at his Wednesday press conference. “We have passed the point of legalized cannabis. It’s in New Jersey. It’s in Massachusetts. To say we’re going to stop it is not an option; it’s already here.”
The agreement is a major victory for proponents of weed legalization as well as for Cuomo, who has lately seen his usually flawless profile take a tremendous hit from the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. This bill has the potential to inject as much as $4.2 billion into the state’s economy through jobs created, a 9% state tax, and a 4% local tax, among other auxiliary benefits. However, reports say it will be more than a year and a half before the first sale is made, most likely December 2022.
The language of the bill is still being finalized. Still, one of the key points towards its ratification was ensuring some measures made amends to those populations that were unjustly criminalized, targeted, and destroyed by the older laws. “A percentage of revenue that is raised will get invested into the communities where the people who suffered mass incarceration come from and still live in many cases,” Democratic Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes told the New York Times. “For me, this is a lot more than about raising revenue: It’s about investing in the lives of the people that have been damaged.”
Another key point the governor ceded was to allow the plant to be grown at home for personal use, although details are still being ironed out concerning penalties for violating that permission as well as any criminal acts performed while under the influence of the herb.
With the bill’s approval, New York will become the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana use. (Medicinal marijuana was made legal seven years earlier in 2014.) Cuomo has long made it known this was a major focus for his administration, and now his objective may finally be realized. “I believe New York is the progressive capital of the nation—not just because we say it is but because we perform that way,” he told reporters. “And legalizing cannabis is this year’s priority to be the progressive capital of the nation. We won’t be the first, but our program will be the best.”