Green light: Legalized recreational marijuana deal reached for New York state

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Adult use recreational marijuana will be legal in New York state, sources tell News 8 Capital Correspondent Corina Cappabianca Wednesday.

After years of political negotiations and failed deals, New York’s Assembly, Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came together on a three-way deal to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Sources say this deal exists outside ongoing budget negotiations.

“It is my understanding that the three-way agreement has been reached and that bill drafting is in the process of finishing a bill that we all have said we support,” state Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger told Bloomberg Wednesday.

Recent negotiations between the legislature and the governor’s office were focused on:

  • Use and allocation of tax revenue collected
  • Home cultivation
  • Driving under the influence laws

The agreed-upon deal’s details have not been made public at this time, but according to Bloomberg:

The deal that legislative leaders brokered with Cuomo (D) calls for a 13% sales tax, 9% of which would go to the state and 4% to the localities, Krueger said. Distributors additionally would collect an excise tax of as much as 3 cents per milligram of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, with a sliding scale based on the type of product and its potency.

No changes would be made to the taxes already imposed on marijuana sold for medical purposes, Krueger told Bloomberg.

For legal marijuana, the state has previously projected $350 million in annual revenue, once the infrastructure is in place. The governor’s proposal would call for $100 million of that annual revenue to go into a social equity fund, with the $250 million remainder going into the state budget. It remains to be seen what the final bill’s details will unveil.

The industry has enormous economic potential, and not just through taxes. In other states where cannabis is legal, it has created a number of jobs in a variety of industries, including agriculture, transportation, retail, regulation, marketing, and more.

During a coronavirus briefing earlier Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the deal wasn’t done, but was close.

“We’ve been trying to legalize cannabis for three years and it failed every year,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’re close, but we’ve been close three times before. If we were playing horseshoes we’d be in good shape, but this is not horseshoes — you either get it done and sign a bill or you done.”

A Siena College poll released in mid-March showed 59% of New Yorkers support legalizing recreational marijuana. Support was 59% to 33%, down a little from 63% to 29% last month. It had more than 60% support from Democrats and independents, and was supported by Republicans, barely, 51% to 48%.

The governor said he acknowledged that some New Yorkers are against legalized marijuana, but said legalization was still “essential” because of neighboring states that have recreational cannabis programs.

“I understand there’s opposition to legalizing cannabis, but we are there,” Gov. Cuomo said. “In a perfect world, you could argue no gaming, no gambling, no casinos. We don’t live in a perfect world. We didn’t have casino gambling, but it was in New Jersey, and reservation land, and Connecticut. So we had gaming. We have passed the point of illegal cannabis, its in New Jersey, it’s in Massachusetts. To say we’re going to stop it is not an option — it is here. The only questions are do we regulate it here, do we gather the revenue here, or have people drive to New Jersey or Massachusetts? But it is here. This year we have to get it done and getting it done by the time the budget is passed is essential.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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