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In push for legal pot, Cuomo includes delivery option in amended adult use cannabis proposal

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 2/16/2021 Denis Slattery, New York Daily News
a man in a blue shirt sitting on a couch: A recreational marijuana smoker indulges in smoking weed in Bushwick. © BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/New York Daily News/TNS A recreational marijuana smoker indulges in smoking weed in Bushwick.

ALBANY — New Yorkers could soon get legal weed delivered to their door.

The Empire State is one step closer to approving adult use marijuana after Gov. Cuomo released an amended version of his pot proposal Tuesday that would reduce criminal penalties for illegal sales, outlines how some of the tax revenue would be spent and allows for the delivery of cannabis products.

The governor, who has been at odds with the Legislature over how the state will use tax money collected on cannabis sales, is pitching a $100 million social equity fund targeting communities disproportionately impacted by enforcement of the state’s drug laws.

“As we work to reimagine, rebuild, and reopen New York, we’re taking every opportunity to address and correct decades of institutional wrongs to build back better than ever before,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Efforts to approve adult use marijuana have repeatedly stalled in the Empire State over the past three years as Democrats in the Legislature sought to set aside a larger portion of potential tax revenue for minority neighborhoods and the governor wanted the state to retain control of the funds.

The biggest change to Cuomo’s new cannabis plan is the inclusion of delivery options.

According to the governor’s office, the permitting of delivery services is “a way to open up access to this new industry even further so more New Yorkers can participate as it grows.”

Counties and local governments would have the opportunity to opt-out from delivery services occurring within their jurisdiction.

Lawmakers and advocates have said in the past that Cuomo’s proposal does not go far enough in terms of decriminalizing marijuana-related offenses.

Legislators have instead pushed for the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which they say does a better job of eliminating criminal penalties and expunging convictions for marijuana offenses.

Cuomo’s amended bill seeks to downgrade some criminal penalties for illegal sales of marijuana including selling to someone under the age of 21, which would be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to a year in jail.

That builds upon a measure passed and signed into law in 2019 that decriminalized unlawful possession and initiated a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions.

More than 15 other states have approved similar recreational marijuana plans allowing those over the age of 21 to buy marijuana from state-approved dispensaries. Many states have included equity measures meant to assist communities that have been most impacted by the war on drugs.

The program, once fully rolled out, is expected to generate some $300 million in revenue a year, according to the governor’s office.

Cuomo’s latest equity plan would see the Department of State allocate the funding, through grants administered by Empire State Development Corporation, via block grants.

Nonprofits and local governments could apply for the funding to pay for community programs for job placement and skill services, adult education, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, housing and other services.

“We know that you cannot overcome a problem without first admitting there is one. Our comprehensive approach to legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also enables us to directly support the communities most impacted by the war on drugs by creating equity and jobs at every level, in every community in our great state,” Cuomo said.


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