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New York’s Last Bid for Marijuana Legalization in 2019

Marijuana legalization has faced skepticism this legislative session, but some New York lawmakers refuse to back down. A group of state senators unveiled Bill S1527A, which aims to merge the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) with the legislation that failed to pass as part of the 2019 fiscal budget.

The failed legislation outlined the rules for the production and sale of marijuana products and the sealing of marijuana convictions, but some lawmakers could not agree on the measure. Most were hung up on where the tax revenue would go, home cultivation and the amount of cannabis a person could possess. 

For the moment, S1527 is the final go for marijuana legalization in the Empire State for the 2019 session. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said passing legalization legislation remains a top priority, but if the bill fails, legislators will not be able to tackle the issue for at least two years.

What Does the New Bill Address?

Senator Liz Krueger, the main sponsor of S1527A, says the new bill aims to address issues with the original legislation. The new bill would greatly expand the Office of Cannabis Management, which is a new marijuana regulatory agency proposed by the governor. This entity would oversee every aspect of the recreational marijuana market, the medical cannabis program and New York’s hemp and CBD market. 

The bill will also limit the amount of marijuana a person can possess. The failed legislation capped the weight at two pounds, but S1527A would lower this limit to a maximum of three ounces. A tax hike is also included. Every gram of purchased marijuana would now be taxed at one dollar, as opposed to 62 cents in the previous proposal. 

The new legislation retains many of the progressive measures from the failed proposal. S1572A will still offer a significant investment into communities most affected by marijuana prohibition. Rather than sealing records for individuals with cannabis charges, a process where a record still exists, the new measure will ensure the records are expunged. 

Will S1527A Pass?

With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, some lawmakers are unsure whether S1527A will pass.  The bill currently sits in the committee where members will evaluate the proposal and decide if it should be sent to the Senate and Assembly floor for a final decision.  

In an interview with New York Public Radio, Cuomo said the problem with getting the measure passed is political. “I don’t think it’s going to be on the merits. I think it’s on the politics …we’re getting down to the final three weeks or so and they’re still saying they don’t have the votes.”

While speaking to reporters at the capital, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins believes the Assembly has enough votes to legalize marijuana, but numbers remain weak in the Senate since suburban Democrats are hesitant to embrace the legislation. Stewart-Cousins also acknowledged that marijuana legalization is inevitable in New York, but there are still issues that need to be cleared up. 

If the legislation fails, Cuomo said the Empire State might consider putting legalization measures on the 2020 ballot.

For now, marijuana for personal use is illegal. Whether you have been arrested for possession or sale, you will need an attorney who is up to date on New York’s cannabis laws. Call [phone] to see how Stephanie Selloni can help. 

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