New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has announced amendments to his adult-use cannabis proposal, including the creation of a $100 million Cannabis Social Equity Fund, allowing delivery, reducing penalties for illegal sales, and prohibiting bans on industry employment based on some prior controlled substance-related criminal offenses, WKBW reports.
The social equity fund would be financed by cannabis-derived taxes, which are expected to amount to $350 million annually once the market is fully implemented. The program would allow community-based nonprofits to apply for support for job placement and skills services, adult education, and mental health and substance abuse treatment, the report says. It would also provide grant dollars to several state agencies for social and economic empowerment programs.
Allowing delivery, the Governor’s Office said, would “open up access to this new industry even further so more New Yorkers can participate as it grows.” Municipalities could choose to opt out of delivery services within their jurisdiction.
Under the proposed reforms, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree would be downgraded from a Class B felony to a Class A misdemeanor, criminal sale in the second degree would shift from a Class A-II felony to a Class E felony, while first degree criminal sales would be met with a Class D felony, down from a Class A-1 felony charge.
Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said the governor’s plan moves it “in the right direction towards stronger community reinvestment, more sensible criminal penalties, and a cannabis delivery option.”
“It’s promising, but we still have a ways to go. My staff and I are in the process of reviewing the Governor’s amended language, as the true impact is always in the details. We have one opportunity to get this right and it’s vital that we do. I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the Senate to legalize cannabis with the most equitable and comprehensive bill possible for all New Yorkers.” – Peoples-Stokes to WKBW
Peoples-Stokes is the sponsor of the legalization measure currently in the Senate Codes Committee.
This is the third attempt by the governor to legalize cannabis in the Empire State using the budget as a vehicle. In 2019, the plan came unglued as lawmakers could not agree on what the industry-derived revenue would be used for, and in 2020 it was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Both legislative chambers are controlled by Democrats.
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