Wednesday, March 31, 2021. New York City – On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, New York legalized recreational cannabis. New York state is expected to become one of the largest markets for legal marijuana in the United States of America.
The Marijuana Policy Project says New York state is the 16th state to end cannabis prohibition. The New York Times says New York became the 15th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
On Tuesday, March 30, 2021, The New York state Senate and Assembly voted to legalize recreational marijuana. The Senate approved it 40-23 and the Assembly approved it 100-49.
The legislation’s two main sponsors had fought for the bill’s passage for more than seven years, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), who sponsored the legislation, said she’s “extremely humbled, proud and honored to have passed the historic Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.”
“The bill we have held out for in this state will create a nation-leading model for legalization. New York’s program will not just talk the talk on racial justice, it will walk the walk,” Senator Liz Krueger said before the vote on Tuesday, March 30.
“For decades, Greens have campaigned and organized to legalize marijuana. The next generation of that struggle is ensuring JUST legalization, meaning to benefit everyday people and those hurt most by the Drug War and *not* Big Pharma, Big Agra and other deep-pocket interests,” says the Green Party of the United States of America.
The Green Party of New York state says in a press release: “Green Party officers celebrated the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) as the culmination of a decades-long struggle by activists and communities to allow for legal sales of cannabis and to begin the process of rebuilding spaces ravaged by the failed Drug War. Party leaders said the organization had always proudly been on the front lines of the struggle for marijuana legalization. Party spokespeople also said they hoped the flaws of MRTA would be addressed soon, and that New York would follow Oregon’s lead and decriminalize all drugs.”
Melissa Moore, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), released the following statement: “A new era for marijuana justice is here. After years of hard work against long odds, New York has enacted one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the country. Let’s be clear — the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act is an outright victory for the communities hit hardest by the failed war on drugs. By placing community reinvestment, social equity, and justice front and center, this law is the new gold standard for reform efforts nationwide. Today we celebrate, tomorrow we work hard to make sure this law is implemented fairly and justly for all New Yorkers.”
Kassandra Frederique, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who formerly led the New York marijuana campaign, said: “This day is certainly a long time coming. When we started working toward marijuana reform 11 years ago, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Because of the sheer extent of harm that had been inflicted on Black and Brown communities over the years, any marijuana reform that was brought forth had to be equally comprehensive to begin repairing the damage.”
Kassandra adds, “And I can confidently say, the result–thanks to the tireless work of DPA, our legislative partners and other advocates–is something truly reimaginitive. We went from New York City being the marijuana arrest capital of the country to today New York State coming through as a beacon of hope, showing the rest of the country what comprehensive marijuana reform–centered in equity, justice and reinvestment–looks like.”
On Tuesday, May 8, 2018, I traveled on a bus with different activists from New York City to Albany, the capital of the state. Activists were demanding the legalization of marijuana in the state with a focus on racial and economic justice.
DPA is part of the coalition that launched the Start (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade) SMART NY campaign in 2016. Advocates from other key groups behind the campaign—including Cannabis Cultural Association, Empire State NORML, Immigrant Defense Project, Latino Justice, and VOCAL-NY—also welcomed the passage of the MRTA, specifically its attempts to address past harms.
“The Assembly and the Senate modeled what democracy actually looks like when the legislature allows progressive movements to lead towards justice. We did not fight simply for legalization’s sake, but worked for years to craft legislation rooted in racial and economic justice, in an effort to repair harms while also setting a new standard for anti-racist, class-conscious, and gender-expansive policymaking,” said Jawanza James Williams, director of organizing at VOCAL-NY.
The Legal Aid Society said that “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.”
NYCLU senior policy counsel Michael Sisitzky said that the lives of Black and Latins New Yorkers “have been needlessly destroyed by racist drug policies across our state for far too long” and highlighted that the new law “will ensure a diverse and inclusive legal marijuana industry and reinvest in the communities of color that have been devastated by the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and a legacy of disproportionate arrests for drug possession.”
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo signed the bill to legalize marijuana on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
Some people say that the growing number of sexual harassment allegations against governor Andrew Cuomo—in addition to controversy over the state’s handling of nursing home COVID-19 death data—forced him to sign the bill legalizing cannabis.
On Tuesday, March 30, 2021, Mariah Kreutter wrote on elle.com, “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s currently in his third term, has now been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct by nine women. The allegations have triggered an outside investigation, calls for resignation from high-ranking Democrats, and an impeachment inquiry from the State Assembly.”
“Over the past two months, two scandals have subsumed the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: the state’s gross mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the state’s nursing homes, and the governor’s reported harassment of several women around him. But the state attorney general has launched a formal investigation into only one of those scandals,” writes Matthew Cunningham-Cook on TheIntercept.com
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act legalizing marijuana is now law in New York state. Cannabis should be legal nationwide and in the world. The federal government considers marijuana to be as dangerous as heroin. That is false.
Nobody should be in jail for smoking marijuana. No one should lose their job (or have a criminal record) for having smoked marijuana.
The bill is effective immediately so expungements of past marijuana convictions can begin now and police can no longer stop cars based on “smelling” weed. New Yorkers aged 21 and older can possess up to three ounces of cannabis outside of their homes.
Sales will not start until New York sets up regulations and a proposed cannabis board. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes says it could take 18 months to two years for sales to start.
People will be able to grow marijuana plants. Adults who want to cultivate cannabis plants can buy regular or feminized cannabis seeds. There are companies that sell seeds on the Internet. There are weed seeds for beginners (these are cannabis seeds that do not require much maintenance and are highly mold resistant). People will have to wait until regulators set rules for it.
According to marijuanamoment.net, “Effective immediately, there would be no penalties for public possession of up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of marijuana concentrates, and people could store up to five pounds of cannabis at home.
Adults 21 and older would be able to possess and purchase marijuana products from licensed retailers, which are expected to launch sometime in 2022.
Adults could also cultivate up to six plants for personal use, three of which could be mature. A maximum of 12 plants could be grown per household with more than one adult. Homegrow would not take effect until regulators set rules for it, and they would have a maximum of six months to do so for medical patients and must do so for adult-use consumers no later than 18 months after the first retail recreational sales begin.
The legislation sets a goal of having 50 percent of marijuana business licenses issued to social equity applicants, defined as people from “communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition” as well as minority- and women-owned businesses, disabled veterans and financially distressed farmers.”
According to Cuomo’s office, the marijuana industry in New York is expected to generate $350 million in tax revenue annually and potentially create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.
“While marijuana is still illegal under federal law, New York’s measure is part of a national trend of state-level legalization and justice-focused reforms. Bloomberg reported that “New York is the 16th state to decide to let adults use cannabis, though marijuana stores probably won’t open in New Jersey until next year, and South Dakota’s law is under appeal. New Mexico’s legislature is on track to pass its bill this week,” writes Jessica Corbett on commondreams.org
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) says, “We expect this to be a record-breaking year for legalization in state legislatures. Until today, only two state legislatures had ever passed cannabis legalization — Illinois and Vermont, both efforts led by MPP. Now, we may see two legislatures pass legalization this WEEK alone.”
MPP adds, “Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island — all of which MPP is heavily involved in — have a real chance of passing legalization legislatively this year.”
On Tuesday, march 30, 2021, lawmakers in New Mexico returned for a special session to tackle recreational marijuana, while lawmakers in Virginia are negotiating over a push to move up legalization to this summer.
Christopher Robbins writes on Gothamist.com, “Over the late ’90s and early 2000s, 800,000 New Yorkers were arrested or ticketed for marijuana, more than anywhere else in the world, despite the fact that the legislature decriminalized small amounts of cannabis in the late ’70s; around 85% of those arrested were Black or Latino.”
Mexico could become the third country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana, after Uruguay and Canada.
On March 10, 2021, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies legalized production of cannabis for industrial, medical, and recreational purposes. The law now returns to the Mexican Senate that needs to approve the modifications, which it likely will; and then Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) needs to sign the bill into law. It is very likely AMLO will sign the bill.
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