New York legislature passes bill to legalize recreational marijuana

'It's past time we right this wrong,' New York Attorney General Letitia James contended late Tuesday after the bill passed.

Taking a puff of the green stuff in New York State is one step closer to legalization after the state legislature passed a bill on Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana use. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he plans to sign the bill into law. 

Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse at Vireo Health’s medical marijuana cultivation facility in Johnstown, New York. New York state lawmakers passed a bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The state Senate passed the bill 40-23, and later on Tuesday evening, it passed the state Assembly 100-49. 

“For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences and after years of hard work, this landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday night after the bill passed.

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“I look forward to signing this legislation into law,” he said. When he does, New York will become the 15th state in the U.S., along with the District of Columbia, to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. 

Lawmakers have noted that legalizing marijuana largely increases state and city revenues and is also a step toward racial justice. In New York, Black and Latinx people made up 94% of all marijuana arrests in 2020, but white New Yorkers are reportedly using marijuana at a rate nearly double that of both minority populations. 

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“For too long, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by an outdated and shortsighted marijuana prohibition, and it’s past time we right this wrong,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James late Tuesday. “We must also engineer an economy that will provide a much-needed boost to communities devastated by the war on drugs and COVID-19, and I am hopeful this will help to achieve that for New Yorkers.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told ABC7 he too supports the passage of the bill. 

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“I want to make sure it’s done in a way that respects the rights of localities and really empowers economically the communities that were most hurt by the previous drug laws,” de Blasio said. “I think this bill goes a long way. I think there’s more to do after, but it goes a long way.”

Once signed into law, the state of New York would create an Office of Cannabis Management. The governor’s office projects that between 30,000 and 60,000 jobs could be created, and state revenues could increase by upwards of $350 million. 

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