Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a proposal to legalize and create a comprehensive system to oversee and regulate marijuana in New York as part of the 2021 State of the State.
“I think this should have been passed years ago,” Mr. Cuomo said during a video briefing. “This is a year where we do need the funding and a lot of New Yorkers are struggling. This year will give us the momentum to get it over the goal line.”
Sen. Liz Krueger (D) and 18 cosponsors also filed cannabis legislation, which is identical to a bill she sponsored last year and has now been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. It would make it so adults 21 and older would be able to purchase cannabis and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.
Cuomo has been on record for years promising to enact legislation to legalize recreational weed. What makes this year different than every other year? Will recreational cannabis finally be legalized in New York? What will legalized the marijuana landscape look like for budding entrepreneurs?
The old Caffe Ragio where Bob Dylan played in the 60's is for rent. Should we expect Amsterdam stye cannabis coffeeshops like the Bulldog to set up shop on Bleeker Street once COVID subsides? Will craft cannabis drinks be for sale at restaurants? Will there be a special permit for minority entrepreneurs looking to get into recreational cannabis market? Will large medical marijuana companies already licensed in New York such as MadMen and Curaleaf dominate the market like Amazon due to their enormous resources and established footprint?
We still don't know the answers to these questions and that is part of the problem. Despite Democrats holding supermajorities in the legislature, our elected officials disagree on the type of businesses should be allowed and where the tax revenues should be spent. Now looks like the time they will forced to act. The proposed law includes low- or zero-interest loans for qualifying equity applicants who wish to start marijuana businesses.
Due to the coronavirus, the state has a huge budget shortfall. Tax revenues have dried up, leading to an estimated shortfall of nearly $63 billion over the next four years. The fiscal straits have given a new wind to measures that could raise revenue, like increasing taxes on the rich, allowing mobile sports betting, and legalizing marijuana. Once fully implemented, legalization is expected to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue according to the Governor.
But legalization may gain momentum since more states have legalized weed, placing New York under added pressure to tap into the potentially billions of dollars in economic activity derived from cannabis sales. The neighboring states of Massachusetts and New Jersey have both legalized cannabis.
“And right now all we're doing is pushing New Yorkers across state borders, where they spend their money in other states to buy the products that we could be producing and selling right here in New York,” said State Senator Liz Krueger, one of several Democrats who've led the charge for legalizing marijuana in New York in recent years.
On the Federal level, the Senate will vote to pass a bill to federally legalize marijuana within the next two years.
That's according to the top Democratic lawmaker who is expected to be installed as majority leader Chuck Schumer. Democrats are now poised to advance any number of more substantial cannabis bills, including those calling for the end of federal marijuana prohibition. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the current top Democrat in the Senate, who is expected to be installed as the majority leader, said in October that he will put his own descheduling bill “on the floor” and that he thinks “we'll have a good chance to pass it.
If you are planning on opening a recreational marijuana business, now is time to call your New York Legislatures and lobby for your proposed business. The time to act is now.