Marijuana in New York would be legalized, regulated and taxed under legislation submitted today by a state senator.
Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act would treat marijuana similar to alcohol—it would taxed and regulated.
“Prohibition of marijuana is a policy that just hasn’t worked, no matter how you look at it, and it’s time to have an honest conversation about what we should do next,” Krueger said in a statement. “The illegal marijuana economy is alive and well, and our unjust laws are branding nonviolent New Yorkers, especially young adults, as criminals, creating a vicious cycle that ruins lives and needlessly wastes taxpayer dollars.”
The bill would remove penalties for possession under two ounces of marijuana or less. It would make 18 the minimum legal age for marijuana possession and consumption, but prohibit the sale of marijuana to people under the age of 21.
The bill said there would be an excise tax of $50 per ounce of marijuana, and localities would be able to authorize a sales tax on retail sales.
A portion of state tax revenue collected by the sale of marijuana would go into re-entry programs, substance-abuse programs and job-training programs in low-income, high-unemployment communities, Krueger said.
Krueger’s bill gained support among Democrats in the Legislature, but it was panned by the Senate, which is partially controlled by Republicans.
“We’re focused on cutting taxes to create new jobs so families can stay in New York,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif. “The Senate Democrats, it would appear, have other priorities.”
Washington and Colorado are the only two states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Colorado will allow retail stores selling marijuana to open Jan. 1.
Twenty states have legalized medicinal marijuana, and the measure has passed repeatedly in the New York Assembly. But it has faced opposition in the Senate, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has been opposed—though he has said he’s open to discussing the issue.
Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing called Krueger’s bill a “non starter.”
Supporters touted Krueger’s bill.
“In a regulated and controlled environment, marijuana will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our young people, we can curtail the crime associated with the illicit market, and the law enforcement can focus its resources on more serious crimes,” Jack Cole, co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is based in Maryland, said in a statement.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick last year called on New York lawmakers to allow medical marijuana and consider legalizing marijuana.
“Every year, millions of dollars are spent on law enforcement and thousands of young people — disproportionately young people of color — have their futures destroyed for possession of small amounts of cannabis,” Myrick wrote in an op-ed piece.