This morning, New York State Senator Liz Krueger announced legislation that would legalize cannabis for recreational use in New York. The bill, called the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, would tax and regulate weed in a way that Krueger says is similar to alcohol.
ANIMAL spoke to Krueger on the steps of City Hall, discussing the bill’s likelihood of passing, its potential economic benefits, and whether longtime smokers would be willing to switch to the legal system even if it meant more expensive product. Watch our interview above.
Under the legislation, New Yorkers over the age of 18 would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of weed, though sales would be limited to people over 21, and smoking in public would be prohibited. You’d also be allowed to grow up to six plants in your home.
Krueger last smoked at a Cheech and Chong film in 1977, and says she’s not planning on getting high ever again. The state senator is adamant that the bill is not about encouraging people to smoke, but reforming a system that leads to the arrest of tens of thousands of New Yorkers each year and has a disproportionate effect on young blacks and Latinos. “We’re paying taxpayer money to ruin lives, disproportionately for those from communities of color, with no real public policy goal to be found in any of it,” she said in a statement.
This year has seen several pushes to legalize or decriminalize cannabis in New York, and recreational legalization passed in Colorado and Washington in 2012. Incoming Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has said his office won’t prosecute low-level pot offenders, and mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has said that though he’s opposed to all-out legalization, he’d like to see public possession of small amounts decriminalized.
“Too many young people are being arrested for low-level drug charges that leave a permanent stain on their records,” Thompson told ANIMAL last month. “These arrests are clogging our court system and diverting police and prosecutorial resources from serious crimes that are on the rise.”
Krueger believes current smokers would be happy to be offered a legal option, even if it means spending more money due to taxes (weed would be taxed at $50 per ounce under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act). “As long as the prices aren’t drastically different, we expect people would move to a liquor store model,” she told ANIMAL.
“Just like you can still brew your own hooch at home–not many people are still doing that,” she added.
By the way, who was this guy with frighteningly bright red contact lenses among the activists standing behind her as she spoke?
(Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)