Weed Legalized For Recreational Use In New York

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday legalizing recreational cannabis use in the state.

“This is a historic day,” the governor tweeted. “I thank the Leader and Speaker and the tireless advocacy of so many.”

Cuomo signed the bill after the Democrat-led state legislature passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) Tuesday. New York joins 15 other states who have legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

The MRTA allows individuals to have up to three ounces of marijuana for recreational purposes or 24 grams of cannabis oils and other forms of concentrated cannabis. (RELATED: Kamala Harris Gets Behind Marijuana Legalization)

Individuals who wish to grow their own cannabis plants can grow up to three mature plants and three immature plants, according to the Senate. Households can have a maximum total of twelve plants, evenly divided between mature and immature plants.

Forty percent of the tax revenue generated from marijuana sales will go toward the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will reinvest money into communities “disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies,” according to the New York State Senate. The remaining proceeds would go toward the State Lottery Fund for Education and the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund.

The new business is estimated to pull in roughly $350 million in yearly tax revenue, according to Democrat & Chronicle.

“For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences and after years of hard work, 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,” Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday night.

The new law will automatically expunge all previous marijuana convictions that would be legal under the new law, Cuomo announced.

“There were many important aspects of this legislation that needed to be addressed correctly – especially the racial disparities that have plagued our state’s response to marijuana use and distribution as well as ensuring public safety– and I am proud that through strong collaboration, we have reached the finish line,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.

The MRTA will create the Office of Cannabis Management which will oversee regulations and the industry. The governor and legislative leaders will appoint members to an advisory board which will be responsible for approving where money goes from the Community Reinvestment Fund as well as making policy recommendations.

Senate Minority Leader Robert G. Ortt said the legislation is “deeply flawed” in a statement.

“This deal legalizing marijuana is the result of closed-door discussions between Leaders of one political party and a Governor who is engulfed in scandal. The outcome of these partisan negotiations is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that will hurt the health and safety of New Yorkers.”

Others voiced concern for the new legislation, including the New York Sheriff’s Association and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, according to News 10.

“In every state where marijuana has been legalized, you’ve seen an increase of traffic accidents and traffic fatalities. It’s just a fact,” Patrick Phelan of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police said.

Crashes increased in Colorado, Oregon and Washington compared to states that didn’t legalize weed, according to a 2018 study from the Highway Loss Data Institute. There is also concern that law enforcement won’t have enough training to detect whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana or another substance, according to CNN.