By Roland Sebestyén
After a historic decision, New York will be the 16th US state that legalises recreational cannabis. With the deal in place, licenced businesses could storm into the billion-dollar industry, and Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés could be opening very soon.
New York Times reports that the legal cannabis industry could create thousands of jobs while the regulated market could bring more than $350m in tax revenue per year for the state.
Despite attempting to push through cannabis legalisation for years, lawmakers in the state have never before agreed on legislation for the move. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the legislation this week, with hopes that it will be passed in time for the 2021 budget on 1 April.
If passed, the bill would legalise the use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. New Yorkers would also be permitted to cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home for personal use.
Apart from the economic advantages New York may have considered, the move could be a massive step in tackling “the racially disproportionate policing” that saw Black and Hispanic people targeted for cannabis offences.
Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said: “A percentage of revenue that is raised will get invested into the communities where the people who suffered mass incarceration come from and still live in many cases.
“For me, this is a lot more than about raising revenue: It’s about investing in the lives of the people that have been damaged.”
According to reports, the new legislation will let cannabis café-like premises open where cannabis but not alcohol could be consumed.
If this happens, New York will be the country’s Amsterdam – the city, which is about to ban foreign tourists from its cannabis cafés.
Governor Cuomo, whose career is under threat after being accused of sexual harassment by a number of women, had long pledged to set the scene for a legalised cannabis market.
In January, he said: “I’ve supported [legalisation] for years. I’ve tried to pass it, but this is a year where we do need the funding, and a lot of New Yorkers are struggling. So, I think this year will give us the momentum to get it over the goal line,
“Not only will legalising and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also allows us to directly support the individuals and communities that have been most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition.”
Reports say even if the bill will be passed as early as next week, it will take at least a year for it to come into force.