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New York Set to Legalize Recreational Marijuana - Kate Stockrahm



KATE STOCKRAHM, HOST: Lawmakers in Albany today reached an agreement allowing adults age 21 and older to use cannabis, recreationally. The proposed bill would also use tax revenue from marijuana sales to fund several grants and programs, designed to support communities disproportionately affected by cannabis regulation in the past. The bill could pass as early as next week. If that happens, it could generate as much as 350 million dollars a year in revenue.


I’m joined now by Alyson Martin. She’s the co-founder of Cannabis Wire, a news organization covering the policies and business of the cannabis industry. She’s also co-author of A New Leaf, The End of Cannabis Prohibition. Alyson Martin, thank you so much for being here today.


ALYSON MARTIN: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.


STOCKRAHM: So, is the passage of this bill good or bad for New Yorkers?


MARTIN: Well, you know, I think that depends on which side of the argument you're on. I think broadly, um, it's a criminal justice win. The ACLU’s done a lot of work around cannabis usage rates, and white cannabis users and people of color who use cannabis use at similar rates, but people of color, Black and brown folks are generally about four times as likely to be charged with, you know, a cannabis-related crime. So from the sort of 30,000-foot criminal justice standpoint, it would be, it would be very much a win.


STOCKRAHM: Does it mean that folks who have a criminal record in this space would have that expunged?


MARTIN: We don’t specifically know what it's going to look like in New York yet. In New Jersey, for example, there was a lot of back and forth during the process about, what crimes specifically are we expunging? And they had this sort of specific aspect of their penal law that kind of hung things up for a while during the passage of the implementation bill. But yeah, I think New Yorkers can expect some kind of expungement. I think that's a priority for the lawmakers who were debating and discussing and negotiating this bill right now.


STOCKRAHM: So some lawmakers have been concerned about what this means for traffic laws and cannabis-impaired driving. Do we have a sense of what that final agreement on that area of the bill will look like?


MARTIN: No, in fact, according to my sources, as of Wednesday evening, while there were many media reports that the deal had been reached, the vehicle traffic law potential for cannabis impairment issue seems to still be the final sticking point. There's a balancing act and concern over avoiding over-policing of cannabis consumers while also maintaining, obviously, safe roads. It's really interesting, because, um, you know, there's no kind of industry standard to test for cannabis driving impairment, similar to you know, like a breathalyzer for alcohol. We all know what point 08 means, right?


STOCKRAHM: For New Jersey, specifically, I know that there isn't a provision for growing cannabis at home. But in New York's policy, it sounds like that is going to be part of our bill. Why is that important? What does that difference mean?


MARTIN: Here are a few reasons that, you know, advocates push for homegrown cannabis, for example. It's much, much cheaper. Cannabis, in general, isn't very expensive to grow. But, you know, policymakers like to try to nail that balancing act of having taxes high enough that they're just above the illicit market, so that, you know, they're not inadvertently fueling that illicit market activity. I think a lot of lawmakers are concerned about home-grow, because, somebody who's growing six plants at home, you know, who's gonna come knocking on their door to say, Oh, wait, you have 12 plants? Oh, wait, you have 18 plants? You know, there is this is kind of like middle ground where people can kind of have a like a little basement grow or a little backyard grow, have side income. That's the kind of thing that lawmakers are generally concerned about.


STOCKRAHM: Alyson Martin is the co-founder of Cannabis Wire. Alyson, thank you so much for sharing with us today.


MARTIN: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.


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