The 31st. In March 2021, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Revenue and Taxation Act (MRTA), which immediately legalized marijuana use by adults over the age of 21, home cultivation, and possession of cannabis. Once the law is signed this morning, previous cannabis-related convictions will be automatically expunged, the governor said.

The bill establishes the Cannabis Management Authority, which will establish and manage the regulatory system for the commercial cannabis market in New York.

The Cannabis Authority will have a five-member board that will oversee not only the adult-use cannabis market, but also the medical cannabis market and the state cannabis market, said Steve Shane, senior counsel at Hoban Law Group. For the medical market, the new legislation provides for more home workers and an expanded list of requirements.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Image: Chris Rank, Flickr.

Troy Smith, deputy director of the New York chapter of NORML, says the law may not be perfect, but it’s a big win for the cannabis community. It has taken a lot of hard work and perseverance from activists, patients and consumers to go from the arresting capital of the cannabis world to the top of the world with a legalized market that focuses on equality, diversity and inclusion, Smith said. The law may not be perfect, but today cannabis users can hold their heads high and smell the flowers.

The MRTA creates a two-tier permit structure that separates cultivation and processing permits from dispensing permits. The bill includes a social justice aspect that requires 50 percent of licenses to go to minority or women-owned businesses, disabled veterans or struggling farmers, Shane said.

New York
Image: Rodrigo Paredes, Flickr …

Melissa Moore, director of the New York State Drug Policy Alliance, says she’s proud of the social justice plan that led to the passage of the law. Let’s be clear: The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act is a big win for the communities most affected by the failed war on drugs, Moore said. Placing community reinvestment, social justice and equity at the heart of the law sets a new standard for reform across the country. Today we celebrate, tomorrow we will work hard to ensure that this law is applied fairly and equitably for all New Yorkers.

According to Schein, the new tax structure in the bill shifts to the retail level: a 9% excise tax and a 4% local excise tax on retail prices (split 25/75% between the respective provinces and municipalities). Proceeds from the cannabis tax will be deposited in a fund, with 40% going to education, 40% to the state grant reinvestment fund, and 20% to the drug treatment and public education fund.

It appears that companies already established in the New York medical market are entering a new market for adult use, while others are beginning to apply for licensure, Shane said. While current medical marijuana licensees should be able to sell adult-use cannabis immediately, it will take up to two years for New York’s adult-use marijuana program to take off and allow sales to the general public, Shane said.

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