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New York legalizes recreational marijuana

Past marijuana convictions will also be expunged under the new law.

marijuana Shutterstock

Recreational marijuana is now legal in the state of New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation legalizing the substance on Wednesday (March 31) less than a day after the State Legislature approved it. Under the new law, the criminal records of people who have been convicted of marijuana-related crimes will also be expunged.

“This is a historic day in New York; one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The new legislation is expected to create up to 60,000 jobs and generate $350 million in annual tax revenue, the statement added. Adult residents will now be allowed to legally possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to three pot plants in their home, with a maximum of six plants per household.

According to ABC News, recreational marijuana sales will carry a 14 percent tax rate with 9 percent going to the state, 3 percent going to the municipality where the sale was made and 1 percent toward the county.

Of the 9 percent allocated to the state, 40 percent will be dedicated to communities disproportionately affected by past drug laws, another 40 percent will go toward schools and the final 20 percent will be used to fund drug treatment and education programs.

The outlet adds that any New Yorkers who were previously convicted of possessing marijuana under the now-legal three-ounce limit will be entitled to record expungement and re-sentencing.

“This effort was years in the making and we have finally achieved what many thought was impossible; a bill that legalizes marijuana while standing up for social equity, enhancing education and protecting public safety,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said on Wednesday.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie added, “My colleagues and I knew it was important to do this the right way — in a way that would include those targeted and frequently excluded from the process.”

Under the legislation, the state will create the Office of Cannabis Management, which will regulate the sale and distribution of both recreational and medical marijuana. ABC reports that recreational marijuana sales may not begin until 2022, as the state takes time to establish the office and framework.

New York is now the 15th state in the U.S. to legalize the substance.

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