It’s incredible to think that just across the Peace Bridge, a stone’s throw away, marijuana is legal. Unfortunately, the borders are currently closed, so it’s a moot point for Buffalonians. With that in mind, it seems that it won’t be too long before Buffalo residents will be able to enjoy the state-wide benefits of the legalization of marijuana (cannabis).
Coming up on Sunday, March 21 at 5pm, the WNY chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will be hosting a Zoom webinar that will discuss the current playing field in WNY, pertaining to the future of legalization. I spoke to NORML advocate Lucas Wentworth, who felt that people should tune in to the discussion, to learn the difference between two proposed bills:
- MRTA, proposed bill by NYS Senator Liz Krueger and NYS Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes
- CRTA, bill proposed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Lucas told me that NORML is in favor of the MRTA bill for a number of reasons. “It sets out to right the wrongs of criminalization, with more social equity and restorative justice,” he explained. “There are more elements of ‘homegrown’ in the bill – people might be able to grow a couple of plants, with possible regulations including for medical purposes. Cuomo’s bill through the budget is all about the money, with none of the other benefits. MRTA is a flat tax under 20% (on par with other states) and CRTA could be as high as 60% depending on potency. I understand that both camps are talking and negotiating, which could lead to a possible hybrid – that would potentially be positive.”
From what I have learned, trying to identify a “best practice” scenario, it appears that no state is perfect at this point. NORML advocates are however, looking forward to east coast states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Vermont cooperating and working together towards a more equity-charged cannabis industry on the east coast. Illinois is doing good things – people in Chicago specifically are doing a lot to “level up” equity (read more). But it turns out that Illinois tax is actually as bad as CRTA, and is ‘THC-level tax-based’ as well – they have a lot to figure out, it turns out, which is why it’s important to get it right the first time, instead of applying bandages later (or a tourniquet for that matter).
When it comes to the legalization of marijuana in NYS, it’s not exactly cut and dry. There are are a lot of different elements to consider, from tax rates to social equity. The good news is that we are inching closer towards becoming a state that moves forward with the legalization of weed. Hopefully, in this case, it won’t be another instance of “Uber,” where we were the second to last place in the US to get ride sharing (thanks to Alaska’s holdout).
The upcoming Zoom presentation will be led by Penelope Crescibene, the Executive Director of the WNY chapter of NORML. There will be time for a Q&A at the end.
To attend the Zoom presentation, click here.
Also visit NORML for more information.
Lead image: Photo by Smoke Honest