Criminal justice reform groups and advocates for minority communities where pot was policed hardest have hailed the state's bill as particularly sweeping: NY would set a target of ensuring 50% of marijuana licenses go to underrepresented communities, and join a handful of states to automatically expunge past marijuana-related convictions.
With Cuomo's approval, possession becomes legal immediately for those age 21 and over. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes has estimated it could take 18 months to two years for sales to start.
Once the bill is signed, NY will be the 15th state to allow for recreational marijuana among adults. "I look forward to signing this legislation into law".
Before selling can begin, the state must set up rules and a proposed cannabis board. Those tax revenues will then be broken up, with nine percent going to the state, and four percent to local municipalities.
That means, for now, that you won't be prosecuted for possessing up to 3 ounces but you don't yet have a legal way to obtain it.
"This landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public".
New Mexico lawmakers concluded their 60-day legislative session March 20, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham decided their work is not done without an adult-use cannabis bill on her desk.
Cuomo and top Democrats in the Assembly and Senate announced Saturday they reached an agreement to expand the state's existing medical marijuana program, allow individual New Yorkers to grow six plants for personal consumption and set up a licensing and taxation system for recreational sales.
Attorney General Letitia James said in part, "The legalization of marijuana is a racial and criminal justice imperative". "For too long, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by an outdated and shortsighted marijuana prohibition, and it's past time we right this wrong. We will spend cannabis tax revenue to help our communities that have been damaged by the War on Drugs", said Peoples-Stokes. "Through this sweeping legislation, NY is delivering reforms that place community reinvestment, social equity, and justice at the core of the law".
NY could be worth more than $5 billion in just its first year of sales, without including "cannabis tourism" from other states, Kovler said in an interview.
"Legalizing marijuana guarantees young people will have greater access to a drug they shouldn't be anywhere near", said Minority Leader Will Barclay.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill, likened the passage of the bill to when alcohol became legal again in NY. "Today we are reversing 90 years of prohibition".
Observers say New York's move, which follows legalization in neighboring MA and New Jersey, builds momentum for legalization efforts nationwide.
Joseph Bayern, CEO of Curaleaf Holdings Inc, the largest USA cannabis company by market value, called New York's legalization a "significant milestone for the cannabis industry" and said he now expects Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland would likely follow suit.
Complete details of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act can be found here.