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New York State Legislature poised to vote to legalize recreational marijuana

Posted at 5:55 AM, Mar 30, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A vote is expected Tuesday or Wednesday to officially legalize recreational marijuana in the state of New York.

State lawmakers reached a deal to legalize its recreational use for adults 21 and older over the weekend.

If the bill passes, marijuana would almost immediately be decriminalized and state regulation would also be established. It would allow New Yorkers to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to three mature plants in their home.

Prior convictions would also be expunged almost immediately.

The legislation makes it illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, which would be treated as a misdemeanor.

"You're not going to be ticketed for it unless you're driving or your smoking where smoking is not allowed," said New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. She has been a longtime proponent of legalizing recreational marijuana and says she looks forward to the bill passing.

State lawmakers estimate the legalization of recreational marijuana could generate $350 million per year in revenue for the state.

The proposed legislation includes a 13% excise tax on marijuana sales, 9% of which would go to the state, 3% would go to local municipalities, and 1% to counties. But some county leaders wonder whether that would be enough.

"We're the ones that provide addiction service," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. "We're the ones that provide mental health services. We're also the ones that provide law enforcement in arrests whether it's the sheriff all the way through trials."

But state lawmakers disagree.

"I think it's a lot more than one percent because 20% of revenue will be spent on the needs of people and the county is a human service level of government," said Peoples-Stokes

Peoples-Stokes says it could take 18 months to two years for licensed dispensaries to be established and open. Under the proposal, cities, towns and villages can opt-out of allowing shops to open up but they cannot opt-out of adult-use legislation.

The bill also gives employers the right to maintain a drug-free workplace, which, according to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, was not covered under previous versions of the bill.

"It is classifying cannabis as an intoxicant just like alcohol," said Buffalo Niagara Partnership Vice President Grant Loomis. "So, an employer knows from an HR perspective how to deal with intoxicants and that fits into that category."

Loomis went on to tell 7 Eyewitness News that drug tests would become more complicated because they can not detect how long someone has had marijuana in their system yet.

To view the full legislation, click here.