New York is poised to join a growing number of US states that have legalised marijuana for recreational use, the AP reports.
It has taken years for the state’s lawmakers to come to a consensus on how legal recreational marijuana would be regulated and taxed.
The agreement reached on Saturday would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana programme and set up a licensing and taxation system for recreational sales. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration has estimated legalisation could eventually bring the state about US$350 million annually.
Senator Liz Krueger, the sponsor of the bill said, “My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of colour across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalisation to help heal and repair those same communities.”
The legislation would allow recreational marijuana sales to adults over the age of 21 and set up a licensing process for the delivery of cannabis products to customers. Individual New Yorkers could grow up to three mature and three immature plants for personal consumption.
The legislation will take effect immediately if passed, though sales wouldn’t start until New York sets up rules and a proposed cannabis board which could take 18 months to two years.
New York would eliminate penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis, and automatically expunge records of people with past convictions for marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminal offences.
The state would also provide loans, grants and incubator programs to encourage participation in the cannabis industry by people from minority communities, as well as small farmers, women and disabled veterans.
Proponents have said the move could create thousands of jobs and begin to address the racial injustice of a decades-long drug war that disproportionately targeted minority and poor communities.
Melissa Moore, the Drug Policy Alliance’s director for New York state, said the bill “really puts a nail in the coffin of the drug war that’s been so devastating to communities across New York.”