State lawmakers voted Tuesday to make New York the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana, marking a key step to ending years of failed attempts to allow adults to purchase, grow and use cannabis-based drugs.
The legislation passed by a margin of 43 to 20 in the Senate and 100 to 49 in the Assembly, with Democrats controlling both chambers.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the measure that creates a regulatory system to oversee the cannabis industry, spanning from massive grow operations to corner cafes allowing outdoor marijuana smoking and vaping.
The state anticipates legal marijuana sales for those age 21 and older will begin a year from now, as it embarks on the complex task of issuing cannabis business licenses while preparing to enforce a lengthy list of new marijuana statutes.
Once fully operational, the cannabis industry is expected to generate more than $350 million in tax revenues per year for the state of New York, with 40% going to a social equity fund, 40% for schools and 20% for drug treatment and education.
New York Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, who championed the legislation, touted it as key to removing marijuana from the illicit marketplace run by dangerous drug cartels to one tightly regulated by state authorities.
“The fact is to have a legalized system . . . ensures that the drug is safe from seed to sale,” she said, adding the goal is also to end decades of racially biased enforcement of marijuana prohibition.
“We are wasting generations of lives,” Krueger said, referring to marijuana-related arrests derailing countless lives in communities of color.
New York Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, expanded upon her comments on the Senate floor, saying marijuana “prohibition and criminalization are racist.”
Opponents of the legalization plan, however, raised concerns about youths using marijuana, negative health effects from using high-potency cannabis drugs, as well as the lack of details related to plans for enforcing drugged driving laws.
The Senate bill passed mainly along party lines. State government is controlled by Democrats.
“I firmly believe we are setting up communities to fail,” said New York Sen. Fred Akshar, R-Binghamton, Broome County.
Source: USA Today