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New York Joins the Discussion on Cannabis Legalization


After the last election, with four more states joining the previous four in legalizing the adult use of marijuana, it seems that more and more lawmakers are taking an interest in making this a reality in their states as well. New York will be the next on the list with the opportunity to open up discussion on whether or not they should make the bold move to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis for recreational use as two separate bills were introduced to the Senate and General Assembly – which together would do exactly that.

“The intent of this act is to regulate, control, and tax marihuana in a manner similar to alcohol, generate millions of dollars in new revenue, prevent access to marihuana by those under the age of eighteen years, reduce the illegal drug market and reduce violent crime, reduce the racially disparate impact of existing marihuana laws, allow industrial hemp to be farmed in New York state, and create new industries and increase employment,” the proposal reads.

The two bills, A3506 and S3040, would make possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the home cultivation of up to six plants legal for adults 18 and older (which actually differs from current laws passed in other states, which all limit access to adults 21 and older). However, when it comes to the potential for the commercial cannabis industry, sales of the plant would be limited to those 21 and older. This is a little confusing because if adults between the ages of 18 and 20 can possess and grow cannabis, why shouldn’t they legally be allowed to buy it?

While we can hope that New York’s lawmakers are all prepared to see these bills all the way to the Governor’s desk, it seems unlikely. To date, New York has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs, only allowing patients with one of 10 qualifying conditions access to medical marijuana from one of only a handful of dispensaries throughout the state. Those issues – in conjunction with the fact that New York only allows for specific, processed forms of medical cannabis (no raw flower for smoking or vaping is allowed) – have made the medicine too expensive for many who would qualify.

The conservative nature of the medical marijuana program in the state, and the fact that their program has been in effect for less than a year and a half, probably means we can expect that a change like full legalization will take more time and lots of discussion before ever taking off. However, as more and more states in the New England area look to move in that direction (thanks to the efforts of Maine and Massachusetts in passing their ballot initiatives), we know it’s finally something lawmakers are starting to take seriously.