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Cuomo: Legalizing pot will bring in $300 million in tax revenue

ALBANY – Adult recreational use of marijuana will be legalized under a plan advanced today by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo along with the creation of three new taxes – eventually passed on to consumers – that will total $300 million annually.

The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act will regulate marijuana from cultivation to retail sales “for the purposes of fostering and promoting temperance in their consumption” and “to promote social equality,’’ according to Cuomo’s budget plan unveiled this afternoon.

Not all the details of the program were immediately released, such as law enforcement strategies to deal with people who drive while high, or precisely how many retail operations will be located in the state.

The plan calls for the creation of an Office of Cannabis Management.

Cuomo had been steadfastly opposed to marijuana legalization, calling it only a couple of years ago a dangerous “gateway” drug. But, as he has moved to the left on an assortment of issues, Cuomo relaxed his views after a state study panel he appointed last year said there were now more benefits than risks to legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his budget address on Jan. 15 in Albany. Towns and villages in Erie County face the loss of $3.7 million in state aid due to a technical budget issue. (Will Waldron/Times Union)

Pot sales would be legal under Cuomo’s plan to adults 21 years and older. The plan also calls for automatically sealing marijuana-related arrest records. Counties and large cities would be able to refuse to participate with the marijuana sales program within their borders.

Initial budget documents released by the administration also do not make clear if residents, as in other states, will be permitted to grow their own marijuana.

The Cuomo budget proposes to impose on pot cultivators a $1 per dry weight gram on cannabis flower and 25 cents per dry weight gram of the cannabis trim. Sales by wholesalers to retailers would face another tax of 20 percent of the invoice price. A third tax is an additional 2 percent sales tax on the wholesaler that would be distributed to counties that host retail establishments.

A part of the financial plan, however, suggests a slow ramping up of the program: It envisions no revenues coming in during the upcoming fiscal year that starts April 1 and only $83 million the following year.


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