New York Nudges Recreational Legalization

If democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger’s efforts are successful, New York may become the fifth state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana. Krueger has been a long time proponent of marijuana legalization. Last year she introduced a recreational marijuana bill, but it went nowhere with Republicans in control of the legislature.

A little more than a year later, Krueger is back and has introduced an amended version of her recreational marijuana bill. Dubbed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, Senate Bill 1747 would legalize recreational marijuana for persons 21 years or older, although persons 18 years or older could legally possess it.

Under SB 1747, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law would be amended to include marijuana and would fall under the rules and regulations of the New York State Liquor Authority. Residents of New York would be able to grow up to six marijuana plants per person. Marijuana processors transferring product to retailers would be taxed as follows: 15 percent of the price at transfer, $35 per ounce on marijuana flowers, $10 per ounce on marijuana leaves and $5 per immature marijuana plant.

On the Brian Lehrer show, Krueger remarked that marijuana should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco, two substances far more dangerous than marijuana. “We don’t outlaw [alcohol and tobacco], we put regulations on them and we tax them … . That is a failed model after 80 years of the drug wars against marijuana,” Krueger said.

While the national trend seems to bend toward legalization, it is still anyone’s guess as to whether or not this bill will pass. Although New York is typically considered more of a left-leaning state, attitudes towards marijuana are far from progressive.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called Colorado-style legalization a non-starter.” Furthermore, despite having decriminalized marijuana for more than 30 years, New York has averaged approximately 30,000-50,000 arrests annually since 2010.

Even though Krueger is the one that introduced the bill, she is also the first person to admit that she doesn’t think it will pass. Speaking with the New York Observer, Krueger said the bill is intended to start a conversation:

“I believe putting out the bill I did then helped move the dialogue and discussion to move forward to at least pass medical marijuana … . I see this as an education process, a building process of public support.”

Though the prospect isn’t proming, the Democratic majority in New York’s legislature may afford SB 1747 a chance it would never have under Republican control. With New York being one of the most populous and wealthiest states in the country, this is one bill you definitely want to add to your watch list.

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