TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
NewsRegion/State

Cuomo signs bill to legalize recreational marijuana in NY

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday signed into

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday signed into law a marijuana legalization bill, paving the way to expunge untold numbers of criminal records, allow limited home growth of cannabis and open one of the largest pot markets in the nation. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd spoke with two happy business owners who are looking forward to the expected increase in profits. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman; Howard Schnapp; Photo Credit: AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a sweeping marijuana legalization bill into law Wednesday, paving the way to expunge untold numbers of criminal records, allow limited home growth of cannabis and open one of the largest pot markets in the nation.

The new law also will expand the uses of medical marijuana, permit the sale of hemp flower and allow possession outside the home of up to three ounces of marijuana.

Legal sales, however, won't begin until approximately September 2022 as the state works to establish licensing and regulatory frameworks.

The governor previously had agreed to terms on the legislation with leaders of the State Senate and Assembly last week. The two Democratic-controlled houses passed the bill Tuesday, largely along party lines, finishing around 10:30 p.m. The governor signed the bill a little more than 12 hours later.

Cuomo, once a marijuana legalization opponent, said the new law will "right the wrongs of the past" wrought by the so-called war on drugs.

"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.

The agreement represented a breakthrough for lawmakers who have been trying to legalize marijuana for several years but often became bogged down over how to allocate the projected $350 million in annual tax revenue from sales.

To reach the agreement, Cuomo agreed with legislators to earmark a significant chunk of the tax revenue for communities disproportionately impacted by unequal enforcement of marijuana laws.

State tax revenue would initially cover administrative costs, with the remaining profit to be divided, with 40% allocated to education funding, 20% to drug treatment and 40% to a "community grants reinvestment fund" to help communities impacted by historical unequal enforcement of drug laws.

"Passage of this bill will mean not just legalizing marijuana, but also investing in education and our communities, and it brings to an end decades of disproportionately targeting people of color under state and federal drug laws," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

State & Region