New York officials reached a deal on Thursday to legalize the state’s recreational use of marijuana, paving the way for a billionaire industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs and redress the resulting historic inequalities. of the war on drugs in the United States.
According to information from the New York Times, a group of state lawmakers have reached consensus with Governor Andrew Cuomo – after several unsuccessful attempts – to allow legal and recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 .
According to the details of the agreement to which the newspaper had access, the new rules allow, among other matters, the opening of establishments that will function as places of consumption and the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants at home for personal use.
The final text of the legislation is still under review, but forecasts with the new rules are expected to pass through the New York legislature next week. If all goes as planned by Democrats, who are the majority in the state chamber, the first sales of legal marijuana are not expected to take place until 2022.
The time is needed for the authorities to define the rules for controlling this market, including the regulation of wholesalers, the rules of distribution, cultivation and retailing, the creation of new taxes and a state council to oversee the new sector.
One of the main banners of the project is also to repair the damage done to the communities most affected by decades of the war on drugs. Historically, blacks and Hispanics in New York City have become prime targets for anti-narcotics policies, disproportionately compared to approaches taken to whites.
For this reason, the bill foresees that millions of dollars of tax revenues from the marijuana sales sector will be reinvested in the communities formed by these minorities, and a considerable part of the licenses issued for the marketing of cannabis will also be reserved. to entrepreneurs in this range of the population.
“A percentage of the income collected will be invested in the communities where people who have suffered mass incarceration come and still live,” said Representative Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat who led the legalization effort of the Chamber for “more than increasing income: it invests in the lives of those who have been injured.”
Under the agreement reached by the authorities on Thursday, 40% of the profits will be invested in communities formed by minorities, an additional 40% will go to public education and the remaining 20% will go to drug treatment, prevention and education.
The state government estimates that legalizing marijuana in New York City can generate around US $ 350 million (R $ 1.9 billion) in annual tax revenue. A more comprehensive study by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association and consulting firm MPG provides even more expressive figures.
It is estimated that the state’s marijuana market will generate US $ 1.2 billion (R $ 6.76 billion) in taxes in 2023. Four years later, the figure is expected to be US $ 4.2 billion. US dollars (23 billion reais, 7 bi). Among other economic impacts, the study points out that the sector is expected to employ 20.9 thousand people by 2023 and 76 thousand by 2027, displacing during these years, respectively, 2.8 billion US dollars (15, 8 billion reais) and 10.1 billion US dollars (57 billion reais).
“When this bill is finally passed and signed, New York will be able to say that we have finally broken the nefarious criminal laws that have only ruined people’s lives,” said State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who led the negotiations in the House. .
“Finally, we can say that we will have a cannabis industry that guarantees people who buy a legitimate product from legitimate companies.”
Governor Cuomo, who faces a slew of sexual harassment allegations that could cost him the job, has long opposed the legalization of marijuana on the grounds that it would be used as a “drug of passage” for other more dangerous substances.
His political stance, however, began to change from 2018 when states neighboring New York advanced in discussions on the subject and when he had to face Cynthia Nixon, of the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, in the primary elections of the state government. Nixon made the legalization of marijuana one of his main flags during the campaign.
Pressed by accusations of harassment and criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo may have backed down from his positions against legalization in order to divert attention from the negative aspects highlighted in his government to a popular agenda in New York. York.
According to a Siena College poll released this month, nearly 60% of voters in the state say they are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Among black voters, who make up a significant portion of Cuomo’s political base, support for the measure stands at 71%.