By Jeff Klingman, theBluntness Feature Writer
The possible, perhaps imminent legalization of recreational weed in New York State promises to be the most significant news story in the U.S. cannabis industry throughout 2019. New York City is already consumes more cannabis than any other city in the world. The Big Apple also becoming the single largest legal adult-use market in the world has the potential to forever change cannabis culture in America, and alter the industry’s center of gravity for decades to come. We’ll keep watching, month by month, scanning all fronts to bring you developments across the state as they occur.
Here’s what’s happening in the push for legal New York weed, right now, in January of 2019.
The Governor Tips His Hand
Newly re-elected New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made legal weed a focus of his new term’s first “State of the State” address, greatly upping the probability that the state legislature’s Democratic majority will tackle cannabis legalization in 2019. Cuomo indicated some willingness on the 2018 campaign trail, under intense scrutiny from then-challenger Cynthia Nixon, but this marks the first time an outline of his suggested proposals for regulation have been explicitly spelled out.
The speech laid out a few key planks of the governor’s pot plan. It would set the legal age to buy cannabis at 21, mirroring the law in neighboring Massachusetts and the proposed legalization in New Jersey. It would establish a 20 percent state tax on retailer and wholesalers, with an additional 2 percent city tax for NYC sellers. (Growers would be taxed by the gram.)
Like other adult use states, it would establish a mechanism for individual counties and cities to ban weed on their own, if the measure clashed with community standards. It would also set up individual licensing processes for growers, distributors, and retailers, and prevent the vertical monopolies of growers opening their own shops.
The state budget proposal, including the pathway to cannabis legalization is set to be voted on before April first of this year. When, if passed, might New York dispensaries be fully up and running? Looks like it’ll be April 2020 (or, you know, 4/20) at the very earliest.
Can Weed Fix the Subway?
It’s estimated that legal cannabis could generate up to $300 million in tax revenue for New York every year. (Those are Cuomo’s numbers, though some observers think it could reach up to $670m.) No doubt, there’ll be many state agencies vying for that immediate influx of available funds. New York City’s cash-strapped, contentious, and perpetually pretty crap Metro Transit Authority could be a big beneficiary of this new cash flood. Whipping the strained subway system into 21st-century shape could cost as much as $40 billion over 10 years, so something’s gotta give. (Other than the trains hanging on from the 1970s, that is.) Cuomo’s been mum on the proposal so far, but there’s a advisory panel digging deeper into the possibility.
California Cash Comes Calling
Out-of-state players, eager to serve another big, beautiful customer base are making moves in advance. Take San Diego cannabis wellness firm, Flora California Prime, Inc., who announced an approved purchase of 47 acres of land upstate early this year. The land is earmarked for a “high-tech cannabis campus” in Buffalo, which will include office and lab space, as well as a state-of-the-art cultivation facility. Budget for the project is a hefty $200 million. The creation of anywhere from 500 to 1,000 new jobs in the New York cannabis industry are projected.
That’s a hefty investment in an industry that’s, technically, still just a glimmer in the state legislature’s eye. As legal New York weed gets nearer, expect more and more entities from the wider industry to begin staking their claim.
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