Governor Cuomo has announced a proposal to legalize cannabis in New York state, designed to create regulatory oversight of adult recreational use and generate an additional source of tax revenue.

The Governor’s proposal establishes an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee and regulate an adult-use cannabis program in addition to the state’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs. Under the proposal, the Office of Cannabis Management would be charged with establishing strict quality and safety controls for packaging, labeling, advertising and testing of cannabis products.

With a proposed 18 percent state tax on the sale of recreational cannabis, legalization is expected to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue. Collected revenue would support the Department of Education, drug treatment and public education programs, and a community grant reinvestment fund.

The Governor’s proposal focuses heavily on correcting systemic inequities in the prosecution of cannabis related offenses, by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color traditionally impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. The Governor’s proposal also sets a goal of allotting half of cannabis licenses to businesses owned by minorities, women, and those adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

“Despite the many challenges New York has faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also created a number of opportunities to correct longstanding wrongs and build New York back better than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said in his State of the State Address.

Earlier this month, New York state lawmakers also reintroduced a bill to legalize and tax recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over. This represents the fifth such attempt to legalize adult-use cannabis in the New York legislature. To date, none of the legalization bills that have been introduced have passed. The Governor’s recent proposal and commitment to cannabis legalization signals a possible shift in the legislative landscape.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.