New York Senator to Introduce Bill to Tax, Regulate Marijuana

New York Senator to Introduce Bill to Tax, Regulate Marijuana

ALBANY, NY — As lawmakers in Albany continue to struggle to fix loopholes in New York’s 35 year old marijuana decriminalization law that result in continued marijuana possession arrests, one State Senator has a better fix: legalize and regulate marijuana for adults.

“It is my intention as a New York State senator to soon introduce a law that would actually decriminalize, regulate and tax marijuana in New York,” State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said last week at a forum hosted by Baruch College.

Krueger’s “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” which has not yet been filed, would allow New Yorkers over the age of 21 to grow up to six mature marijuana plants at home, and would establish a system of retail stores regulated and overseen by the New York State Liquor Authority.

New York state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who hasn't inhaled "since the 70's," intends to file a marijuana legalization bill in the Empire State.

New York state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who hasn’t inhaled “since the 70’s,” intends to file a marijuana legalization bill in the Empire State.

The bill proposes a marijuana tax of $50 per ounce, of which 80% would go to the state’s general fund, with the rest earmarked for substance abuse, criminal re-entry and job training programs.

Cities and towns would be given the option of imposing an additional 5% tax on marijuana sales in their community, or banning retail sales of marijuana entirely.

The bill would also contain provisions preventing the operation of motor vehicles under the influence of marijuana.

Under New York state law, the private possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine, but the possession of any amount of cannabis in public view remains a criminal misdemeanor.

Although New York decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977, the “public view” exception to the law continues to allow police to continue to arrest people — mostly young minorities — in record numbers for simple marijuana possession.

The practice, which has drawn criticism to the New York Police Department and earned the Big Apple a reputation as the “Pot Bust Capital of the World,” involves police officers telling a suspect to empty their pockets, thus bringing the marijuana into “public view” — an arrestable offense.

report released in March found that the NYPD had spent one million hours making marijuana arrests over the past decade, and that simple marijuana possession misdemeanors are the number one arrest in New York City — by far.

Studies have shown that arresting and prosecuting low level marijuana offenders in New York City has little or no long-term impact on law enforcement efforts to reduce violent crime in the city.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for reforming the state’s marijuana possession laws and fixing the “public view” exception, but the legislature has been slow to act.  The Assembly came close to a legislative fix in March after weeks of negotiations, but when they couldn’t agree on a simple proposal, they voted to adjourn for vacation.

Last year, Governor Cuomo introduced similar legislation to reform the law, but the Senate refused to act when  then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) stalled progress of the bill, expressing an absurd concern that people could walk around with 10 joints in each ear – despite the fact that the reform proposal was supported by law enforcement leaders throughout the state.

Recent polls have shown that New Yorkers support marijuana reform. A December poll found that 51% of New Yorkers would support a marijuana legalization bill in the state, and a poll released this week found that over 82% are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

Lawmakers are considering several medical marijuana bills this session, including one that has been quietly advancing through the legislative process.

The Compassionate Care Act, Assembly Bill 6357, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, has substantial support in the Assembly, with over 60 co-sponsors. An  identical companion bill, Senate Bill 4406, is pending in the Senate, with over a dozen co-sponsors.

The bills, both introduced by lawmakers representing voters in New York City, would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, and has the support of hundreds of patients and providers and dozens of organizations across the state.

The medical marijuana legislation is expected to be debated by lawmakers  before the end of the legislative session in  June.  New York residents can click here to contact their elected officials and urge them to support this important legislation.

But not everyone in New York is in favor of marijuana reform.  One state Senator, Greg Ball (R-District 40), has introduced Senate Bill 4930,  the “Illegal Narcotics Dispensary Ban,”  which aims to prevent any medical or recreational marijuana dispensaries that may become authorized from current pending, or future, legislation.

Another lawmaker, Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak (D- District 143), introduced a bill to ban novelty candies shaped to resemble marijuana, regardless of whether they contain cannabis, from being sold in the state.  That bill quickly advanced through the Assembly, earning a third reading in the Senate before the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee killed the bill.

  • Pete

    Dang, $50 an ounce! Cannabis is an herb, what if apples had a $50 an ounce tax? Sure it should be taxed, and the money should be used to educate people about its use et cetera.

    • Chris Murphy

      Agreed Pete, if they don’t financially cripple the sales with such an egregious sales tax, more people would buy said product and they would collect more in taxes in the long run.

      • Ellis D. Tripp

        Looking at it from the government’s POV, they want to strike a balance between raising revenue and discouraging use.

        They tax the hell out of booze and cigarettes, and they seem to sell just fine. Admittedly, those are addictive and pot isn’t.

      • Cocomaan

        The old Laffer curve at work!

  • Paul McClancy

    A sin tax, while effective in some cases, really pisses me off. If they dare raise the tax where is higher than black market prices, then we’re back to square one.

  • DoctorA

    50 dollars an ounce is way cheaper than the black market.

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  • miked2179

    I don’t care, as long as it is legal in new York. I am a smoker and will continue to smoke pot until otherwise. $50 tax per ounce, watch how fast the city generates revenue in just the first quarter year.

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  • Tino Faygo

    To everyone bitching about 50 bucks an ounce…fuck off. This is you growing your own PERSONAL plants being charged 50 bucks an ounce. I’m sorry but to me that is a net gain of at least 250 bucks an ounce. I do not have to spend 300 bucks to buy an Ounce anymore where as i can just spend 50 an ounce?!?! Yeah once you get into pounds it is a little expensive but its is by far cheaper than buying from your friend down the road for 300-400 an ounce.

    • Mike

      Yeah, I’m OK with reasonable, easy to administer taxes, too.

      I’m not sure that the tax applies to grow your own, but I haven’t seen the text of the bill, either. That would be a nightmare to administer. Are they going to send inspectors around to make sure you’re not fudging what you declare as production? Not sure something like that will work for home grow.

      It makes more sense, if there has to be some tax on home grow (frankly, IMO as long as it’s for personal use, it should be taxed like home brewed beer — zero%) it should be in the form of a license, say $100/year.

      I do like the 6 mature plant limit. That’s much better than the silly 3 plant rules elsewhere. It’s pretty clear they intend this to be female plants — I think — would help if that was spelled out. It’ll still be a pretty hard path for the average newbie grower to produce enough from 6 plants to tide them over until the next harvest.

      Fight to keep homegrow in and not let it get bargained away along the way.

      • Tino Faygo

        ah See as the next line after the growing 6 mature plants, was the line about 50 dollar tax an ounce. Oh yes, I think a yearly license fee would be best. Or something like you take your crop in report the number of plants and weigh the clippings. Cause if you wanted to sell it you could leave the stems on to add weight in the bags, but for your own personal use and to not get taxed too much you would have little to no stems on it. So it would drop the total weight which in the end would hurt people trying to sell it as that is a common trick by dealers to leave some stems in the bag. I think 6 plants is ok for now. In the future though hopefully 10 years or so they will let people legally farm it in their back yard as much as they want.

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