NYS to Legalize Cannabis
After years of fits and starts, New York State leaders have agreed on how to legalize the adult use of cannabis for those 21 and over. The Legislature is set to officially vote on the legislation in the coming days. New York is following the lead of more than a dozen other states in legalizing and regulating the drug with a process that would likely see legal sales beginning sometime in 2022. The law establishes a process for cities, towns, and villages to opt-out of the sale of cannabis within their borders.
Most important for BNP members, the law legalizing cannabis allows employers to enforce drug-free workplace policies by treating cannabis like other legal intoxicants such as alcohol. This distinction allows employers to take adverse employment action if employees are showing signs of impairment while on the job. The BNP has been a vocal advocate for strong employer protections in the legalization effort.
Under the law, adults would be able to purchase cannabis at retail locations and ‘social consumption sites’ where cannabis would be available for on premise consumption the same way a bar serves alcohol. The law will also allow people to grow a defined number of cannabis plants at home for personal use.
New York State estimates that when fully operational, the legal cannabis program will generate $350 million in revenue each year. Under the law, 40 precent of that funding will be invested in low-income communities which have been disproportionately impacted by fines, arrests, and confinement from the prohibition of marijuana. Another 40 percent would be dedicated to public education with the remaining 20 percent of revenue directed toward drug treatment, prevention, and education. Revenue will be largely raised through a 13 percent tax on cannabis sales – a nine percent state sales tax and a four percent tax divided between cities, towns, and counties.
All aspects of the state’s cannabis program will be regulated by a newly created New York State Cannabis Control Board. The five-member panel will be appointed by the Governor and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly.
The effort to legalize cannabis was spearheaded, in part, by Buffalo’s Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Majority Leader of the NYS Assembly who sponsored the legislation. Governor Cuomo reversed his long-standing opposition to legalization and included the proposal in his last two budget plans. Democrats hold supermajorities in both the Senate and Assembly making the politics of legalization much clearer than in past efforts.