New York legalized recreational marijuana on Wednesday, becoming the 15th state in the country to end its prohibition, The New York Times reports.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill on Wednesday after the Senate voted 40 to 23 and the Assembly voted 94 to 56 to approve the bill after years of stalled negotiations.
After numerous debates over the distribution of tax revenues from marijuana sales, Democratic lawmakers approved measures to steer 40% of the tax revenue to Black and Latino communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
The law also automatically expunges past convictions and allows those arrested for drug crimes to participate in the new legal marijuana market.
“Unlike any other state in America, this legislation is intentional about equity,” said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill. “Equity is not a second thought, it’s the first one and it needs to be, because the people who paid the price for this war on drugs have lost so much.”
Some measures take effect immediately:
Under the new law, people are now allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana or 24 grams of concentrate. New Yorkers can also smoke marijuana in public wherever tobacco is allowed, though cities can make their own rules.
The law also expands medical marijuana rules, which previously barred sales of cannabis flower and limited sales to a 30-day supply. The law also previously limited medical sales to a small number of conditionals like cancer, AIDS, and epilepsy but now allows medical practitioners to recommend marijuana for any condition.
Sales still far off:
Peoples-Stokes estimated that it could take 18 months to two years to work out new regulations and create a cannabis board that will oversee the market. Eventually, the state will allow dispensaries to open in any city that doesn’t opt out and will allow businesses to offer public consumption and delivery services.
Individuals will eventually be allowed to grow up to six plants at home for personal use.
The new market is expected to bring in $350 million per year in tax revenue and create thousands of new jobs.