NYS Passes Decriminalization Measure

The recent passage of legislation in New York State to further decriminalize the cannabis plant makes this an appropriate time to discuss the history of the cannabis plant specific to the empire state. On June 20 of this year, at the brink of ending the spring session, the New York Senate Majority passed S.6579A to further decriminalize marijuana bringing the state one step closer to full regulated adult use legalization. 

The behind the scenes political issues surrounding the tax revenue streams and structure of the soon to be created Cannabis Department prevented the state from passing the full measures for adult-use cannabis. While the elected officials continue to discuss these issues behind closed doors after the summer break, this new legislation is a strong step toward solving the racial inequalities that have been present with the laws which have been in effect since 1927. 

The new decriminalization measure addresses five key issues which have manifested with the slow growth of legalization throughout the country. The law will establish procedures for automatic record expungement both retroactively and for future convictions. It will also remove criminal penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana under two ounces. Legislative documents state that more than 600,000 people have arrest records for marijuana possession, despite 1977 decriminalization laws. In one recent year in New York City, 88 percent of those arrested were black or Latino, the documents state.

In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, to an infraction with a $100 fine. However, possession in public view remained a misdemeanor. As defined in Article 221 of the New York State Penal law up until June 20, if marijuana was burning in public view, no matter the amount, or possession of 25 grams up to two ounces, it was a Class B misdemeanor, carrying up to a three-month sentence. Statistical analysis showed arrests were lowered significantly after 1977 only to increase between 1997 and 2010 when NYC arrested 525,000 people for low level public use possession, according to a legislative finding. Now in 2019, the fine is set to $50 regardless of criminal history for possession under one ounce and a fine of $200 fine for between one and two ounces. 

In addition, marijuana will be added to the definition of smoking under the Public Health Law so that smoking marijuana will be prohibited in any circumstances where smoking tobacco is currently prohibited by law. Previous to this legislation, the state signed legislation in 2014 permitting the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The state spent 18 months to enact the laws to provide non-smoked methods of intake. 

Why was the CBD industry watching this legislation intently over the last month?

As mentioned previously, the inception of the farm bill in 2018 has created a lot of confusion through the country about CBD and the cannabis plant. Police departments and attorneys in New York are confused as well on the difference of CBD, THC and how to regulate and handle new licensees through the Department of Agriculture and Markets.  There are many anxious stakeholders within the state waiting for the final CBD regulations on growing, processing and production of the cannabinoids not named THC. In December, 79 additional organizations were granted licenses to process CBD from flower to isolate for product creation. Several licensed companies are moving forward knowing the laws may be altered based on sourcing of biomass, what type and where processing will be allowed and where consumer products will be permitted to be produced and sold. This is a challenge for investors in creating business plans, distribution networks and strategic business partnerships. The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has been overwhelmed by the increase in licensees for both growing and processing CBD and recently have been more difficult to reach due to shear volumes of requests. Currently the application process is open for additional growers as the state postures to ensure all CBD processors are using biomass grown by New York State farmers. 

Nowave is extremely supportive of the new legislation the state recently passed for decriminalization and the measures to reduce the impact on minorities and will look to hire individuals who have been negatively impacted. In addition, Nowave is actively working with New York farmers to ensure local agriculture benefits from the growing industry as partners.

For a full press release from New York State Democratic Majority click on link below:

https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/press-release/attachment/06.20.19_decriminalization_of_marijuana_release.pdf