New York Lawmakers to Renew Push for Cannabis Legalization

Lawmakers are set to announce a renewed push to legalize cannabis in New York, with state legislators and public policy advocates planning to unveil an adult-use bill next week.

State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-New York) and Rep. Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), along with advocates organized by the Drug Policy Alliance, will meet in Albany on Monday to announce the reintroduction of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), S.3040/A.3506. They’ll also announce the launch of a campaign, Start SMART NY, dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition in the state.

The legislation would establish a legal market for adult-use cannabis in the state, with marijuana taxed and regulated in a fashion similar to how alcohol is regulated for adults over 21.

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The tax revenue for the state will be considerable, as according to the Start SMART (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade) campaign, New Yorkers already spend an estimated $3 billion per year on cannabis. In New York City alone, a 2013 estimate from the city’s comptroller pegged potential tax revenue at more than $400 million. Judging from states that have already legalized, actual revenue could be even higher than projected.

The MRTA bill also includes measures aimed at promoting racial equity and small business. Proposed “micro” licenses would be similar to those granted to New York’s craft wine and beer industry. It would allow small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people who have limited access to capital or traditional avenues of financing.

In a nod to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war’s criminal focus, the legislation would also establish a so-called Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which would fund projects like job training, economic initiatives, and youth development programs. And to promote a diverse industry, the bill would allow people with prior drug convictions to obtain licenses.

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People with business-related convictions, though, such as fraud or tax evasion, would be explicitly barred from seeking licenses.

Key sponsors of the bill include Sens. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), Jesse Hamilton (IDC-Brooklyn), Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), and Reps. Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) and Michael Blake (D-Bronx).

A press conference at the Capitol is scheduled for Monday, June 12, at 1:30 p.m.

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