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New York outlines cannabis legalisation plans for 2020

The New York governor has included outlines for plans to legalise the use of cannabis in the 2020 budget.

As part of the opportunity agenda, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed last week that New York implements a comprehensive regulatory approach to legalising cannabis for adult use.

The plans include creating a new Office of Cannabis Management, specialising in cannabis regulation, as well as overseeing the medical cannabis, adult-use and hemp programmes – estimating sales could bring in $20m (

€18.15m) in revenue in the first year.

The proposal will administer social equity licensing opportunities as well as facilitating market entry through access to capital, technical assistance and incubation of equity entrepreneurs.

The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act

In July 2018 a report was issued by the Department of Health that concluded that the positive impacts of a regulated cannabis programme in New York ‘outweighs the potential negative aspects.’

Despite legalisation of cannabis being included in last year’s budget – the proposal was unsuccessful. This year’s budget proposal establishes a regulated and taxed cannabis industry in New York, including regulations and controls for the production, distribution, transportation, and sale of cannabis – efforts for which will be done in co-ordination with Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Three taxes are imposed on the adult-use of cannabis including the cultivation of cannabis taxed at the rate of $1 per dry weight gramme of cannabis flower, $0.25 per dry weight gramme of cannabis trim, and $0.14 per gramme of wet cannabis; the sale by any entity to a retail dispensary taxed at a rate of 20% of the invoice price; and the same sale by any entity to a retail dispensary taxed at a rate of 2% of the invoice price, but collected in trust for and on account of the county or a city with a population of a million or more in which the retail dispensary is located.

Centralise Medical Cannabis Supervision

A newly established Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will administer the comprehensive cannabis regulatory framework, and will centralise all the licensing, enforcement and economic development functions in one entity.

The OCM will also be supervising the continued expansion of the current medical cannabis programme, and institute reforms that expand patient access and product affordability, along with encouraging research opportunities among medical cannabis providers, health care providers, and medical insurers.

Setting the record straight

The report highlights that more than 800,000 people have been arrested for possession of small amounts of cannabis – most of those being people are colour. The 2020 proposals would reduce these racial disparities as part of the proposal recommends correcting past harms to individuals and communities that have disproportionately been impacted by prohibition.

In his address, Governor Cuomo, said: “Legalise adult use cannabis. I believe it is best done in the budget. I said that last year. I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues.”

The New York governor has included outlines for plans to legalise the use of cannabis in the 2020 budget.

Virginia governor outlines plan to legalize marijuana north of the NC border

Photo- Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday he plans to propose legislation legalizing marijuana when the General Assembly convenes in January, setting the state on a path to become the first in the South to allow recreational use of the drug.

“We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia,” Northam said. “I support that and am committed to doing it the right way.”

Northam, a physician who says he’s never used the drug, cautioned “it’s not going to happen overnight,” saying he envisions an 18 to 24 month timetable for the state to establish and regulate the new marketplace.

His administration has been studying the issue and many details remain unresolved, but Northam said he intends to emphasize public health protections and social equity issues as the state moves forward.

“Marijuana laws have been based originally in discrimination and undoing these harms means things like social equity licenses, access to capital, community reinvestment and sealing or expunging people’s prior records,” he said.

Lawmakers in the House of Delegates say a legalization bill would likely pass the chamber. In the Senate, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said last week he gave it “slightly better than 50-50” odds.

Northam’s comments came on the same day as state analysts presented a sprawling study of the potential impacts of marijuana legalization

Gov. Ralph Northam at a press conference in October. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

in Virginia and things lawmakers should take into account as they discuss it.

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission study found that legalization could generate more than $300 million per year in tax revenues by the fifth year of operations and, combined with decriminalization, could reduce marijuana arrests by 84 percent. Legalization could also create more than 11,000 jobs, the study found, but most would be lower-paying positions in retail, cultivation, packaging and security.

If Virginia chooses to legalize adult use of marijuana, it would likely take at least two years to put a regulatory structure in place and begin licensing companies to operate in the state, according to the study.

While the study found that very few people are jailed solely for marijuana possession, JLARC staffers found that 120,000 Virginians might benefit if the General Assembly paired legalization with a one-time expungement of pot charges that wouldn’t be crimes anymore. More than half of those people would be Black Virginians, who are arrested for marijuana at a much higher rate than White Virginians, according to the study.

The study outlined numerous steps Virginia policymakers could take to promote social equity, including giving preferential consideration for minority entrepreneurs and workers from communities that have been disproportionately affected by drug prohibition. Preventing a vertically integrated industry dominated by large, well-established marijuana companies, the study suggested, could also promote opportunities for Virginia-based small businesses.

“As new states legalize, your homegrown businesses, pardon the pun, are going to be competing against these businesses that are big, multi-state operators,” said JLARC legislative analyst Mark Gribbin.

The study did not make a recommendation that Virginia should or shouldn’t legalize marijuana.

“The mission of this particular study was not to decide whether Virginia should legalize marijuana,” said Del. Ken Plum, D-Reston, the chairman of JLARC. “The question was: If Virginia decided to legalize marjiuna, what should be the considerations?”

Another important element lawmakers would have to work out is what level of control local governments should have over allowing legal marijuana sales in their communities. Virginia law allows localities to ban liquor sales, and lawmakers could choose to do the same with marijuana.

“It is still a controversial issue,” Gribbin said. “And even people who support legalization for criminal justice reasons may not be supportive of a commercial market.”

Ned Oliver and Graham Moomaw cover state government in Virginia for the Virginia Mercury, which first published this story.

Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam outlines plan to legalize marijuana north of the North Carolina border; cannabis; war on drugs