New York cannabis bill could legalize possession of as much as three ounces of marijuana

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New York, as always, is pushing the envelope.

A new proposal supported by state Democrats would allow New Yorkers older than 21 to legally possess three ounces of marijuana — three times the amount typically permitted in other areas of the country.

Supporters of the proposal, which was sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, argued the legal amount needs to be set high enough to prevent people from needlessly getting caught up in the state’s legal system, according to The Associated Press.

Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing a competing proposal that would allow for the legal possession of an ounce of the drug.

The new proposal raises some notable concerns, such as what the state will do with the funds produced by this new revenue stream. With legalization projected to bring in something in the neighbourhood of US$300 million in taxes annually, many lawmakers want legislation to precisely lay out where the funds will be directed.

Cuomo has proposed placing the money in a state cannabis fund that can be used on everything from administration costs to new research to education efforts, purposely leaving flexibility to adapt as the industry matures. This measure does not go far enough for some.

FILE: Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, delivers remarks during an opening ceremony of Delta’s new terminal at LaGuardia airport on October 29, 2019 in New York City. / Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

“I know that (Cuomo) probably will try to make sure that there are resources invested in communities of colour that have been (disaffected),” Peoples-Stokes said. “But quite honestly, he’s not governor for life. There could be another governor in five years,” she said.

Peoples-Stokes’ proposal has been gaining support from moderate Democrats who will be integral to legalizing the drug she said is growing more popular by the day.

Indeed, public backing for legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes is at an all-time high in the Empire State, according to a Siena College poll, with 58 per cent of respondents in favour of the move compared to 38 per cent who are opposed.

But voters in suburban areas remain skeptical on the measure, the New York Post noted, just as they were last year when the state failed to legalize cannabis before the end of its legislative session. Lawmakers, instead, decided to decriminalize possession of pot under two ounces and reduce fines for those found with small amounts of the drug.

But Cuomo said he wants this year to be different. “Legalize adult-use cannabis,” he said in a speech in Albany last week. “I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues that without the budget can often languish, and I suggest that we get it done in the budget.”

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