Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers have put the finishing touches on an agreement to make the drug legal for adult use, The New York Times reported on Thursday. The news comes a day after Bloomberg and several other outlets reported that a deal was close to being finalized. The state legislature is now expected to vote on the measure within days. Once it passes, New York will become the 15th state to have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
Governor Cuomo’s office has estimated that a recreational cannabis program could bring in around $350 million a year once fully implemented. A good chunk of this revenue will go toward “equity programs,” the Times reports, including loans, grants, and incubator programs for those disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. The program will decriminalize the possession of less than three ounces of cannabis, and allow for the expungement of records of people who have been convicted of cannabis-related offenses that are no longer criminal.
The agreement stipulates that a 13 percent sales tax would be imposed on cannabis sales, 9 percent of which would go to the state and 4 percent of which would go to localities. (Distributors would collect an additional excise tax of as much as 3 cents per milligram of THC.) The deal also holds for the creation of an Office of Cannabis Management, which would be responsible for distributing licenses. According to The Wall Street Journal, after funding an Office of Cannabis Management and law-enforcement officers trained to recognize impaired driving, 20 percent of leftover revenue will go to treatment and public education, 40 percent will go to school aid, and 40 percent will go to a social equity fund.
Recreational cannabis would be legal for adults 21 and older. According to the Times, cannabis delivery will be permitted, as will the establishment “consumption sites,” or cannabis clubs, where the drug can be consumed. Those who wish to grow their own cannabis will be allowed to cultivate up to six plants for personal use.
The agreement reached Wednesday and finalized Thursday comes after years of failed attempts in the state to legalize cannabis. The pressure to pass legislation increased as nearby states like Massachusetts and, most recently, New Jersey have passed measures to legalize recreational cannabis. “This year we have to get it done, and getting it done by the time the budget is passed is essential,” Cuomo said at an unrelated news conference earlier on Wednesday, adding that he and lawmakers were “a few inches” away from reaching an agreement. As it turns out, it was only a few hours.
This post has been updated.