New York's recreational marijuana plan coming together

December 13, 2018 11:37 PM

Plans are being drafted to make recreational marijuana legal here in New York state, and a model for the rules and regulations surrounding it is becoming clearer.  

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have approved some form of legalization and in November, Michigan became the 10th state to approve recreational use.  


"We're spending a lot of money right now on the black market and none of it is going back into the community," says Mary Kruger, president of Rochester NORML, a group that has been working to get recreational marijuana approved. "It's been behind a curtain or not really talked about for so long." 

But now, recreational marijuana is front and center.  

Governor Andrew Cuomo backs it and leaders in both the state Assembly and Senate are on board so at this point, it seems like all that's left to do is take a formal vote in the state Legislature.  

The lawmakers working on writing the legislation that will be used as a framework for the program tell News10NBC they'd like to just "copy and paste" what the state of Nevada has done.

"Nevada has definitely benefited from the implementation in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California," says Senator Diane Savino.  

Here's what copying Nevada's laws would mean for New York:

  • Legal recreational use for anyone over the age of 21.
  • Sales of one ounce per day.
  • No public consumption or usage while driving or in a vehicle.
  • Employers can still drug test and landlords can still prohibit usage while inside their dwellings.  

When it comes to the business side of things, Senator Savino says she likes that Nevada started by offering recreational licenses to those who already have medical dispensaries.

"Co-location helps because it allows for more people walking through the door, more sales of more products which brings down the costs across the board," she tells News10NBC.  

But there is concern that co-location could block smaller businesses from entering the market.

Senator Savino says there will be other opportunities for contractors like security companies and CPAs to work with those approved to grow and sell just like in Nevada. 

"They have licenses for different levels; you don't just have a grower's license and a seller's license…it opens up opportunities at various levels and allows people to grow into the business," she says.

Drug policy experts say the program works well, so far, in the state of Nevada for a few reasons that New York state won't be able to emulate.

"Nevada is a relatively low population state, so it wasn't quite a challenge for them to steer the ship…they didn't have quiet the big bureaucracy to kind of move around," says Chris Lindsey, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project.  

The main question will be how New York plans to roll-out the program.

"How much are lawmakers willing to set the standard but then leave a lot of the decision making to the agencies versus how much do the lawmakers want to control how the agencies are going to specifically handle types of problems," Linsey wonders.

It's a question New Yorkers will likely get an answer to when Governor Cuomo gives his 2018 State of the State Address and presents his budget to the state Legislature during the first week of January. 


Jennifer Lewke

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