Job placement, mental health programs, and housing would benefit from the legalization of marijuana in New York if a plan backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is made law.
Cuomo on Tuesday outlined amendments to his budget plan first announced last month, fleshing out the details of his proposals to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state.
The crux of the amendments, as Cuomo highlighted on Tuesday, includes how the state would spend $100 million in revenue earmarked for a social equity fund, which is meant to boost communities affected by past drug laws.
The funding would aid qualified non-profit groups that provide job support, adult education, mental health services, housing support, community banking, and nutritional services, among other areas.
"As we work to reimagine, rebuild, and reopen New York, we're taking every opportunity to address and correct decades of institutional wrongs to build back better than ever before," Cuomo said.
"We know that you cannot overcome a problem without first admitting there is one. Our comprehensive approach to legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also enables us to directly support the communities most impacted by the war on drugs by creating equity and jobs at every level, in every community in our great state."
At the same time, Cuomo scaled back criminal penalties for illegal drug sales, reducing the criminal sale of marijuana to someone under 21 to a misdemeanor. Selling marijuana over 16 ounces or 80 grams of concentrate would remain felony charges.
And Cuomo proposed allowing the delivery of legal marijuana products; local governments would have the ability to opt out of that provision.
The legalization of marijuana has stalled over the years in Albany amid concerns over traffic safety and whether children would be able to access the drug. Lawmakers in 2019 approved measures to decriminalize marijuana possession and expunge records after a broader legalization bill failed to gain enough support.
The state budget is expected to pass by March 31.