This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The proposed Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act would restrict sales to those over the age of 21 and seal convictions on criminal records for possession offenses that would no longer be illegal under the new law. It is projected to bring in $300 million in tax revenue in the first three years.
The bill would create an Office of Cannabis Management, a centralized approach to overseeing licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale and taxation, which a spokesperson for the governor’s office told Rolling Stone in an email would be “a first in the nation comprehensive regulatory structure.” The text of the proposal describes its main objectives as “fostering and promoting temperance [in the consumption of cannabis], to properly protect the public health, safety and welfare, and to promote social equality.”
“Let’s stop the disproportionate impact on communities of color,” Cuomo said during his budget address on Tuesday. “Let’s create an industry that empowers the poor communities that paid the price and not the rich corporations that come in to make a profit.”
Cuomo came out in support of recreational marijuana in December, after calling it a “gateway drug” as recently as 2017. Support for legal weed and clearing the record of New Yorkers who had previously been arrested for possession — and who are disproportionately people of color — was a central point in Cuomo’s primary challenger Cynthia Nixon’s platform during last year’s election, which likely pushed Cuomo to change his stance.
Under the governor’s plan, there would be no retail sales tax, but a 20-percent tax on sales from wholesalers to dispensaries, and cultivation taxes of $1 per dry weight gram of cannabis flower and $0.25 per dry weight gram of cannabis trim. Large cities and towns with populations of over 100,000 can opt out of the plan by passing local laws prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana within their jurisdictions. The $300 million projected tax revenue is based on no opt-outs.
In addition to the administration of the cannabis program, tax revenue would go toward the governor’s traffic safety committee; small business development and loans; substance abuse, harm reduction and mental health treatment and prevention; public health education and intervention; and research on cannabis uses and applications.
The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act was introduced as part of the Governor’s Executive Budget, which is expected to be acted upon by April 1st. The budget also included several tax code updates, and The TIME’S UP New York Safety Agenda, which “amends New York law to help prevent sexual assault and harassment from occurring and enables survivors to seek justice.” The partnership with the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund would eliminate the statute of limitations for second and third-degree rape claims (there’s currently no statute of limitations for first-degree rape), and strengthen workplace harassment protections, including mandating that nondisclosure agreements include an exception for reporting to government agencies and participating in government investigations.