New York: Governor Signs Adult-Use Legalization Measure into Law

Albany, NY: Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo signed The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) into law on Wednesday. The new law legalizes and regulates an adult-use commercial marijuana market in New York State and also permits those over the age of 21 to cultivate personal-use quantities of cannabis in their own homes.

The provisions specific to the personal possession of marijuana (up to three ounces of flower and/or up to 24 grams of concentrates) took effect upon signing.

NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri stated, “This signals an end to the racially discriminatory policies that have long made the Empire State the marijuana arrest capital of the United States, if not the world. This stops police from annually arresting tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers for low-level marijuana offenses, the majority of whom are overwhelmingly young, poor, and people of color.”

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano added, “The passage of this legislation will not only have serious economic and social justice ramifications for its nearly 20 million residents, but it no doubt will have ripple effects across the nation and arguably also within the halls of Congress — providing further pressure on federal lawmakers to amend federal law in a manner that eliminates the existing inconsistencies between state and federal cannabis policies.” 

Six percent of US House members represent New York State, and seven percent of all Congressional House Committee and Subcommittee Chairs are from New York.

The Act established a process for the licensed production and retail sale of marijuana to adults. Regulators would license delivery services and on-site consumption facilities. Retail sales will be taxed at nine percent, plus up to a four percent local tax, as well as an additional tax based upon THC content. Localities that do not wish to have cannabis retailers in their neighborhoods can opt out, but they will not receive tax revenues if they choose to do so. The Act also provides expungement relief for millions of residents with past cannabis convictions on their records. It also limits the ability of police to initiate a search based solely on the odor of cannabis.

Forty percent of tax revenue will be directed toward communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. Provisions in the MRTA seek to award half of all business licenses to social equity applicants. An economic analysis published earlier this year estimated that legalizing the adult-use marijuana market in New York could yield over $700 million in tax revenue and create over 50,000 jobs by 2027.

For more information, contact NORML State Policies Manager, Carly Wolf.