By Christian Garzone, originally published in WROC-TV on Mar 25, 2021, 05:10 PM EDT | Updated: Mar 26, 2021 10:19 AM EDT.
Social justice & economy: Lawyers and leaders talk marijuana legalization for New York
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Legal marijuana for adult recreational use is coming to New York soon, according to sources who say a three-way deal has been reached in Albany.
“The pandemic has made the situation ripe to get this done now,” says lawyer Tristan Hujer with Phillips Lytle LLP. He says with lower tax revenue coming into the state, it’s likely marijuana will be legalized for adult recreational use. With this, there are two major components: personal consumption and sales.
“What we’re talking about is, you should think about marijuana-only retail dispensaries,” says Hujer.
Hujer adds you will be likely able to carry up to 3 ounces of marijuana — and grow a limited supply at home. “Up to three mature plants,” he says.
Fine-tuning still needs to be done, Hujer says, since this is not passed into law yet. Senator Jeremy Cooney (D-56th District) says he wants to see farmers, processors, distributors, and retailers benefit from legalization.
“There will be opportunities for Black and Brown entrepreneurs,” says Cooney. “We can’t have a conversation about marijuana legalization for adults, without having a conversation about social injustice issues.”
Cooney says for the Black and Brown community in Rochester, there has been a disparate impact for decades. He says minorities are 16-times more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level drug offenses. He says for some with past violations, there could be an ‘expungement process’ included to wipe certain records clean.
“So this legislation is an opportunity and a first step to address those wrongs,” he says.
County Executive Adam Bello says one big challenge in all of this remains: driving under the influence. He wants to make sure law enforcement has the right tools.
“How do we test, and how do we help identify people who are driving while impaired on marijuana?” says Bello.
Hujer did add towns and counties might be able to ‘opt out’ of this marijuana legalization, and not do it. But that remains to be seen. Cooney says the vote on all this could come before the budget is due April 1st, or after, yet either way, he says it’s coming soon.