New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today signed The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) into law, which legalizes and regulates an adult-use commercial marijuana market in New York State, and also permits those over the age of 21 to cultivate personal-use quantities of cannabis in their own homes.

The provisions specific to the personal possession of marijuana took effect upon signing.

“I just signed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “The bill creates automatic expungement of previous marijuana convictions that would now be legal. This is a historic day. I thank the Leader and Speaker and the tireless advocacy of so many.”

NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri stated, “This signals an end to the racially discriminatory policies that have long made the Empire State the marijuana arrest capital of the United States, if not the world. This stops police from annually arresting tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers for low-level marijuana offenses, the majority of whom are overwhelmingly young, poor, and people of color.”

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano added, “The passage of this legislation will not only have serious economic and social justice ramifications for its nearly 20 million residents, but it no doubt will have ripple effects across the nation and arguably also within the halls of Congress — providing further pressure on federal lawmakers to amend federal law in a manner that eliminates the existing inconsistencies between state and federal cannabis policies.” 

Six percent of US House members represent New York State, and seven percent of all Congressional House Committee and Subcommittee Chairs are from New York.

Empire State NORML Deputy Director Troy Smit said: “It’s taken a great amount of work and perseverance by activists, patients, and consumers, to go from being the cannabis arrest capital of the world, to lead the world with a legalized market dedicated to equity, diversity, and inclusion. This might not be the perfect piece of legislation, but today, cannabis consumers can hold their heads high and smell the flowers.”

The Act established a process for the licensed production and retail sale of marijuana to adults. Regulators would license delivery services and on-site consumption facilities. Retail sales will be taxed at nine percent, plus up to a four percent local tax, as well as an additional tax based upon THC content. Localities that do not wish to have cannabis retailers in their neighborhoods can opt out, but they will not receive tax revenues if they choose to do so. The Act also provides expungement relief for millions of residents with past cannabis convictions on their records. 

Forty percent of tax revenue will be directed toward communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. Provisions in the MRTA seek to award half of all business licenses to social equity applicants.

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