New York's legislature voted Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs the package, which he said Tuesday will bring "justice for long-marginalized communities," New York will be the 15th state to allow pot use for non-medicinal purposes. The bill passed in the Assembly on a 43-20 vote and cleared the Senate 100 to 49. Democrats control both chambers.
The new law will allow anyone 21 or older to possess, carry, buy, or otherwise obtain up to three ounces of cannabis, probably starting in about a year, and it creates a regulatory framework for dispensaries to sell pot and certain businesses to allow its use. The new industry will be overseen by a new Office of Cannabis Management and a board appointed by the governor and lawmakers. Local municipal governments will be allowed to ban dispensaries and on-site use businesses, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports.
The expected $350 million in annual tax revenue will be divided between schools (40 percent), drug treatment and education (20 percent), and a social equity fund (40 percent) designed to help New York avoid the situation in other legalization states where Black and brown dealers are excluded from the marketplace and pushed into the black market, NPR reports. That social equity pot will be invested in communities harmed by high rates of drug arrests, and dealers who can show their business would benefit those people and communities will be eligible for "social equity" dispensary licenses.
"I think it's just a real game-changer and sets a new model for what legalization should look like in this country," Melissa Moore, head of the Drug Policy Alliance's New York chapter, told NPR News.