Krueger’s bill would open the Empire State to recreational marijuana allowing for retail dispensaries regulated by the State Liquor Authority. The state would collect an excise tax on all marijuana sales, and adults would legally be able to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants at home for personal use.
Since New York is not a referendum state, if Krueger’s bill gets signed into law, it will immediately go into effect, bypassing a statewide referendum. Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 at the ballot box. In November, Alaska and Oregon voters will get their turn to legalize weed.
New York already joined 22 other states in the country that allows marijuana for medicinal purposes. Even though the state decriminalized possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana more than 30 years ago, law enforcement officials New York, especially the Big Apple, still lock up an inordinate number of people for low-level marijuana arrests. Thanks to a 1977 loophole that lets cops charge weed heads with a criminal misdemeanor for public possession of marijuana, people are still going to jail for holding small amounts of cannabis.
Since 2010, New York City has averaged between 30,000 and 50,000 marijuana arrests each year. And during the period between 2002 and 2012, 87 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in the city were black or Latino, despite evidence suggesting that whites use marijuana at about the same rate as either group.
Brad Usher, Krueger’s chief of staff, told HuffPost: “While Krueger doesn’t smoke pot and doesn’t think anyone else should, she doesn’t think the policy of prohibition has been successful in controlling marijuana use, and [thinks] that it should be treated more as a public health issue.”
Still, Krueger has her work cut out. She introduced a similar bill in 2013 that also aimed to legalize the possession, use and sale of limited amounts of recreational marijuana, but the bill never made it out of committee. Even if she was able to get the bill in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he will likely not sign it into law. In January, Cuomo said that Colorado-style legalization in New York is “a nonstarter for me.”