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Cuomo proposal to legalize & create equitable adult-use cannabis program

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Wed, Jan 6th 2021 12:55 pm

Proposal to create new Office of Cannabis Management to regulate state medical and adult-use cannabis and cannabinoid hemp programs

Equitable market structure to invest in individuals & communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a proposal to legalize and create a comprehensive system to oversee and regulate cannabis in New York as part of the 2021 State of the State. Under the governor's proposal, a new Office of Cannabis Management would be created to oversee the new adult-use program, as well as the state's existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs. Additionally, an equitable structure for the adult-use market would be created by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Once fully implemented, legalization is expected to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue.

"Despite the many challenges New York has faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also created a number of opportunities to correct longstanding wrongs and build New York back better than ever before," Cuomo said. "Not only will legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provide the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also allows us to directly support the individuals and communities that have been most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition."

The governor's proposal builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use. In 2018, the Department of Health, under Cuomo's direction, conducted a multiagency study that concluded the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found “decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.”

In 2019, Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the governor spearheaded a multistate summit to discuss paths toward legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Building on that work, this new proposal “reflects national standards and emerging best practices to promote responsible use, limiting the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishing stringent quality and safety controls including strict regulation of the packaging, labeling, advertising and testing of all cannabis products. Cannabis regulation also offers the opportunity to invest in research and direct resources to communities that have been most impacted by cannabis prohibition.”

In response, New York Cannabis Growers & Processors Association President Allan Gandelman released a statement that read: “There simply is no more time to wait as New Yorkers have watched other states and now our neighbors legalize adult use cannabis. We have a historic moment to legalize cannabis in a way that brings new opportunities for communities across the state and acts as a catalyst for economic revitalization. Now is the time to establish an equitable, diverse and sustainable cannabis marketplace that prioritizes New York farmers, small businesses and communities impacted by the war on drugs. We thank Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Sen. Liz Krueger for once again making legalization a priority; it is now crucial that we work together to ensure that the Empire State is a global leader in the rapidly growing cannabis industry.”

New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica said, “Marijuana has a longer just runway by the time you set it up, but by the time it's fully effective under our proposal you'll get about $300 million a year. But again, that will take several years to get up to those numbers.”

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