Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in New York.
The move comes after the state Legislature green-lit the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act after hours of debate late Tuesday.
“This is a historic day in New York — one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Certain parts of the new law go into effect immediately — including expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal under the law.
Also effective immediately, New Yorkers will be legally allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis outside the home and up to 5 pounds at home — and can smoke pot in public wherever smoking tobacco is permitted.
The law takes cannabis off the list of controlled substances and allows those who are 21 and older to use the drug freely. Legal marijuana could be sold in licensed dispensaries as soon as next year.
The bill also establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to implement a regulatory framework that covers medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp. It also expands the state’s existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp programs.
But it will be some time before stores hawking legal weed appear in the state.
Cities, towns, and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, 2021, or nine months after the effective date of the legislation.
The localities, however, cannot opt-out of the adult-use legalization of cannabis.
Two mayors on Long Island have already vowed to do so in their municipalities.
The adult-use cannabis industry in the state has the potential to bring in $350 million in annual taxes and create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs across the Empire State, officials have said.
All cannabis taxes will be deposited in the state’s special cannabis revenue fund with 40 percent going to education, 40 percent to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund and 20 percent to the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the passing of the bill during his City Hall press briefing shortly before Cuomo signed it into law.
“Last night the state Legislature made history and acted to right a wrong and legalize marijuana the right way,” de Blasio said, adding, “This is a hugely important moment for the state of New York.”