The Marijuana Bill: For Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes It’s About a Lot More Than Just Raising Revenue

Governor Mario Cuomo Signs Bill Making New York the 15th State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (pictured above)announced last week that state lawmakers   voted  to legalize, tax, and regulate adult-use cannabis. The bill, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,  was  carried in the Senate by Senator Liz Krueger.

On Wednesday   Gov. Mario Como signed the bill, making New York the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

“I am thrilled to announce that there was a three-way agreement to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The final bill provides long awaited marijuana justice for New Yorkers and makes significant steps and investments to begin to address the generational devastation caused by marijuana prohibition and mass incarceration,” said Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes. “Cannabis legalization in New York will be centered on equity, community reinvestment and economic opportunities for historically disenfranchised people, health-based research, education, and public safety. I am honored to sponsor this legislation and excited to see the positive impact it will have for so many New Yorkers.”

“I am very proud to say that we were able to reach an agreement on legalizing adult-use cannabis in a way that foregrounds racial justice, while balancing safety with economic growth, encouraging new small businesses, and significantly diminishing the illegal market,” said Senator Krueger. “My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities. I believe we have achieved that in this bill, as well as addressing the concerns and input of stakeholders across the board. Now that  this bill has become law, New York is  poised to implement a nation-leading model for what marijuana legalization can look like.”

The final legislation was the culmination of an eight years-long effort by Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, Senator Krueger, and countless advocates. 

“For me, this is about a lot more than just raising revenue. It’s about investing in the lives of the people that have been damaged,” Peoples-Stokes commented. Her historic legislation    was an effort to make amends for decades of unjust marijuana prohibition.  Key provisions of the bill will begin to repair the heavily discriminatory impact that enforcement of prohibition has had on communities of color in New York State.

These provisions include:

1.Dedicating 40% of revenue to reinvestment in communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war, as well as for drug treatment and public education.

2. Equity programs providing loans, grants, and incubator programs to ensure broad opportunities for participation in the new legal industry by people from disproportionately impacted communities as well as by small farmers.

3. A goal of 50% of licenses going to equity applicants.

4. Elimination of penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis.

5 .Automatic expungement of records for people with previous convictions for activities that are no longer criminalized.

6. Establishment of a well-regulated industry to ensure consumers know exactly what they are getting when they purchase cannabis.

 The bill establishes the framework to build a well-regulated industry that will replace the illegal market, prevent domination by large existing players, and ensure that consumers know exactly what they are getting when they purchase cannabis. 

Peoples-Stokes concluded, “This is a rare opportunity to participate on the ground floor of a brand new industry and create generational wealth for your family. With New York State’s cannabis market not anticipated to be ready until 2023, now is the time to begin figuring out how and where you fit in.”


Marijuana Expungement Clinics Set 

Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes announced that she will host WNY’s Inaugural Marijuana Expungement Clinics this spring. The 2019 Marijuana Expungement bill allows for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and destroy  the records of those with low-level conviction records of Penal Law 221.05 and Penal Law 221.10.

The clinics  are designed to explain  automatic expungement  as it pertains to this law. The first will take place on Saturday, April 10  and April 24 from 10  a.m. to 1  p.m. at Gerard Place, 2515 Bailey Avenue   and Thursday, April 22  from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Buffalo and Erie County Library, 1 Lafayette Square. 

Face masks are required. All events are free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required by calling (716) 897-9714.

As one method of empowering disproportionately disenfranchised communities, Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes’ Office is collaborating with the following community partners: Daemen College Paralegal Department, University at Buffalo Law Alumni Association, Neighborhood Legal Services, Legal Aid of Buffalo, Minority Bar Foundation, Center for Elder Law and Justice and local attorneys and paralegals.

It has been estimated that there are roughly 5,000 residents in the City of Buffalo impacted by these convictions. Each person that pre-registers for a session will have the opportunity to be a “client for  the day,”  sitting down with a licensed attorney to be briefed on the law’s benefits and to make an informed decision on whether to apply for destruction of said records.

Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “I’m proud to be able to bring this service to City of Buffalo residents and would like to thank all of our legal partners for making these clinics possible.”

Each individual’s case and circumstances are unique, so it’s important that everyone be informed of their rights under this law because they should have the opportunity to decide whether having their marijuana conviction records destroyed is the right call for them.”


Now That It’s Legalized, Here are Some of The Weed Rules……

*How old will you have to be to legally possess weed?

Age 21 or older. It will be illegal to possess, purchase or use marijuana if you are under 21

*How much weed will you be able to legally possess?

Up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis

*Where will you be able to legally buy marijuana from?

Retail dispensaries – essentially storefronts. Adult-use consumption sites, i.e. lounge like locations where you purchase and use the weed on site. And it will be taxed – at a rate of 13%.

*So what will make a sale illegal?

Anyone who sells cannabis without  a license.

*Will I be able to  grow marijuana in my home?

Yes. As long as you are over 21 you can grow up to three mature and three immature plants at a time. 

*Can I smoke marijuana  in public?

The rule basically makes it ok to smoke in the same places where you  smoke tobacco. But local governments  can also regulate where you can smoke cannabis, like they do for tobacco , for example, Buffalo does not allow smoking in parks and Erie County restricts smoking at  bus stops. If you break the rules it will be considered a civil penalty – not a crime and you can be hit with a fine up to $25 and community service (no more than 20 hours).  

*Can I smoke in my car?

No. Y’all can’t drive around smoking  weed  or  eating THC-infused gummies – that includes the driver and passengers  (just like you’re not allowed to drink and drive. ) If caught that will get you a ticket.