By LeeWEpstein

March 19, 2020

While New York State is organizing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, legislators are still working to tie up their budgets before the April 1 deadline and incorporate cannabis legalization.

At a press conference on Monday, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said that in addition to ending the ban on cannabis in New York State, he was allocating $30 million to environmental protection.

I want to go as far as I can,” Cuomo said. “But I want to do it right.

While negotiations on the project continue, the proposal to legalize cannabis in New York State would allow people 21 years of age and older to purchase cannabis from licensed retailers and grow up to six plants for personal use.

Andrew Cuomo included legalization in his budget proposal for the second year in a row and had discussed the importance of adopting the reform in his State of the State address in January. He had also repeatedly stressed that the budget should be the vehicle for reform.

In an ideal world, the revised bill should be inserted into the budget before it reaches Cuomo’s office,” said Melissa Moore, Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. “But that prospect seems dimmed in light of the current crisis, which has shifted legislative priorities.

Even as officials work on the health response to the coronavirus, Cuomo insisted that getting the reform through the state budget is the surest way to succeed. And the budget could, in fact, be considered on a “fast-track” basis with an agreement being reached as early as this week due to the imperative of working on the pandemic response.

We need to make political decisions. The budget is the time to make political decisions,” he said in a conference call with journalists on Saturday, adding that “without the budget, the easiest thing for a legislative body to do is to do nothing”.

Cannabis could have been legalized as early as last year in New York State. The agreement was ultimately unsuccessful, as some issues such as the allocation of tax revenues were not resolved.

In the latest version of the bill, an 18% tax would be imposed on cannabis sales. After covering the costs of implementation, the revenue from these taxes would be allocated to three areas: 25% for the state operating fund, as long as it is earmarked for the Ministry of Education, 25% for drug treatment and public education fund, and 50% for a community grant reinvestment fund.

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