Compared to other states, cannabis legalization efforts in New York have been slow. Both hemp and marijuana bills have been held up in various stages of the legalization process, and the emergence of the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into the works. For instance, Governor Cuomo had been planning on carrying out benchmarking visits to legal cannabis states, but he has stated that the tour has been delayed as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

However, there is still a glimmer of hope after lawmakers recently rolled out a revised bill to legalize marijuana in the state. Filed last week on Thursday, the bill would allow individuals 21 and over to purchase cannabis from licensed retailers and grow up to six plants for personal use.

Cannabis sales would be subject to an 18% tax which will be used to cover the costs of implementation. The remainder will go towards three areas: 25% will go to a state lottery fund designated for the Department of Education, 25% will be used for a drug treatment and public education fund, and 50% will go to a community grants investment fund.

Governor Cuomo has in the past stated that the budget should be the vehicle to enact reform, and he has included legalization in his budget proposal for the second year in the row. And despite the current state of world affairs, he has insisted that pushing reform through the budget is the best way to move forward.

Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director of the Drug Policy Alliance states that in an ideal world, language from the revised bill would be inserted into the budget before it arrives at Governor Cuomo’s desk. “But that prospect seems dimmed in light of the current crisis, which has shifted legislative priorities,” Moore says.

“We have to make the political decisions. The budget is the time to make the political decisions,” stated Governor Cuomo, adding that “without the budget, the easiest thing for a legislative body to do is to do nothing.”

The measure hasn’t received overwhelming support, with some wondering whether the bill will be passed in its entirety. According to Senate Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris, issues like marijuana reform could be delayed as lawmakers ‘try to be incredibly effective this week, to only come in as necessary.’

“I think at this point it’s pretty unlikely that adult-use moves in the expedited budget the NY legislature is working on. Sounds like they’re focusing on essential items and policy provisions like this are falling out as they try to close the budget by Friday,” says Moore.

The Senate version of the bill is currently sitting at the Finance Committee and the Assembly version is in the Codes Committee.

It would be interesting to hear what sector players like Willow Biosciences Inc. (TSX: WLLW) (OTCQB: CANSF) have to say about this latest move to legalize marijuana legislatively in New York State.

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