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New York state legalizes recreational marijuana

New York lawmakers have voted to legalize adult-use cannabis sales and Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the bill into law, reversing 90 years of prohibition. New York will be the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana in the U.S.

The law will allow recreational sales and cannabis consumption lounges and delivery for adults 21 and over. New Yorkers will also able to have in their possession up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate and to grow a total of three mature marijuana plants and three immature plants at home for personal use.

The state’s total cannabis market is currently estimated to be at $4.6 billion in annual sales. It will take about 18 months for the adult-use sales of cannabis to go into effect. When it does, the legal cannabis industry is expected to capture $1.2 billion in sales by 2023 and $4.2 billion by 2027.

Cannabis will be taxed at 13% with a potency tax of as much as 3 cents per milligram of THC, and the New York State expects to eventually collect $350 million in annual tax revenue.

Communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war will receive 40% of the tax revenue, with another 40% going to schools and public education and 20% going to drug treatment, prevention, and education.

The state has eliminated all penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis and will automatically expunge the records of people with prior convictions for activities that are no longer criminalized under the new law.

“The prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences,” said Cuomo. “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.”

The adult-use program will offer incentives to help people participate in the legal industry, including loans, grants, and incubator programs for people from disproportionately impacted communities and small farmers.

State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, has worked with Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes for eight years to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York: “It has been a long road to get here, but it will be worth the wait,” she said. “The bill we have held out for will create a nation-leading model for legalization.”

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