ALBANY, New York, February 17, 2020 – PRESS RELEASE – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced 30-day changes to the governor’s proposal to establish a comprehensive adult cannabis program in New York. In particular, these changes detail how the $ 100 million in social capital will be raised, the use of delivery services, and criminal charges related to the improper sale of cannabis will be enforced to further reduce the impact on affected communities hardest by the war on drugs.
“As we work to redefine, rebuild, and reopen New York, we take every opportunity to fix decades of institutional flaws in order to rebuild better than ever,” said Cuomo. “We know you can’t overcome a problem without first admitting it exists. Our comprehensive approach to legalizing and regulating the adult cannabis market offers the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also enables us, the communities directly to support most of the effects of the war on drugs through the creation of justice and jobs at all levels and in every community in our great state. “
Allocation of $ 100 million Cannabis Social Equity Fund
Social and economic justice are the bedrock of Cuomo’s proposal to legalize cannabis for adult use. As part of that, his proposal includes a $ 100 million fund to revitalize communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.
Through this fund, qualified nonprofits and local governments would apply for funding to support a variety of different community revitalization efforts including, but not limited to:
- Job placement and qualification services,
- Adult education,
- Mental health treatment,
- Treatment of substance use disorders,
- Financial competence,
- Community banking,
- Nutritional services,
- Adversary childhood experience services
- After-school and childcare services, system navigation services,
- Legal services to remove barriers to re-entry and
- Links to health care, women’s health services, and other community-level support services
The grants from this program can also be used to further support the Social and Economic Justice Program.
Under the amended proposal, the State Department would allocate the funds through grants from the Empire State Development Corporation in collaboration with the Departments of Labor and Health, and the Department of Housing and Community Renewal and Addiction Offices, to provide services and assistance, and services to children and families. The final allocation and management of the funds also depends on approval from the budget division.
Enable the use of delivery services
Legalization of cannabis is expected to play an important role in rebuilding New York’s economy after the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, legalization is expected to create more than 60,000 new jobs and spur $ 3.5 billion in economic activity, while when fully implemented it will generate an estimated $ 350 million in tax revenue.
Legalizing cannabis also has the potential to produce significant economic benefits in distressed areas in New York and create employment opportunities for all levels of the workforce. With social and economic justice at the heart of Cuomo’s proposal, delivery services offer a low-cost entry into the industry, especially in communities particularly hard hit by the war on drugs.
In recognition of this, Cuomo is changing its proposal to allow delivery services to open up even further to this new industry so that more New Yorkers can participate as it grows. As part of this, local governments would have the option of refusing delivery services that take place in their jurisdiction.
Inappropriate Sales Crime
In building a new product market, as Cuomo’s proposal does, there will inevitably be attempts by bad actors to evade rules and commit fraud for their own financial gain. For this reason, it is vital to ensure that penalties are carefully calibrated to ensure that anyone wishing to enter this new market is acting on a level playing field.
Cannabis adds another complicating factor to this dynamic, however: Years of obsolete politics resulting from the war on drugs have disproportionately affected color communities. New York has already taken steps to decriminalize cannabis, and as this new market becomes reality, it is important that criminal penalties are carefully applied to ensure that progress already made is not accidentally reversed.
For this reason, according to Cuomo’s amended proposal, certain penalties are reduced as follows:
- Third degree criminal selling (selling to under the age of 21) is classified as a Class A misdemeanor
- Second-degree criminal selling (selling over 16 ounces or 80 grams of concentrate) is made a class E crime
- First-degree criminal selling (selling over 64 ounces or 320 grams of concentrate) is made a class D crime
Cuomo’s proposal builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize adult cannabis. In 2018, the Ministry of Health, led by Cuomo, conducted an inter-agency study that found that the positive effects of legalizing cannabis for adults far outweighed the negative. It was also found that the decades-long cannabis ban failed to meet public health and safety goals and resulted in unjust arrests and convictions, particularly among color communities.
In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed a law decriminalizing penalties for illegally possessing cannabis. Legislation also provides a procedure to clear records of certain convictions for cannabis. Later that year, Cuomo chaired a multi-state summit to discuss ways to legalize adult cannabis, ensure public health and safety, and regionally coordinate programs to minimize the cross-border traffic of cannabis products.
Building on this important work, Cuomo’s proposal reflects national standards and emerging best practices to promote responsible use, restricts sales of cannabis products to adults aged 21 and over, and introduces rigorous quality and safety controls, including strict regulations on packaging, labeling, Promotion and testing of all cannabis products. Cannabis regulation also provides an opportunity to invest in research and direct resources to communities hardest hit by the cannabis ban.