Will 2015 be the year that marijuana is made legal in New York State?
A week after voters in Washington D.C, Oregon and Alaska agreed to make recreational marijuana use legal, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said they'd decriminalize personal possession of the drug.
And State Sen. Liz Krueger said in an interview she'll re-introduce the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in January. If passed, the State Liquor Authority would tax and regulate marijuana. People over 18 could legally possess marijuana, and people over 21 could buy it. The law would allow six plants to be kept in a home.
Krueger said she’s hoping to “desexify” marijuana, making weed just another taxed commodity. That would help the city's Black and Latino communities, where a disproportionate number of residents are charged with marijuana-related offenses.
“I’m not actually supporting people using marijuana, I don’t use it now, I won’t when it becomes legal,” Krueger said.
Krueger said her bill prevents those convicted of higher-level drug crimes from going into the marijuana business, similar to current state liquor rules that prohibit felons from receiving a license.
“That doesn’t mean someone who does sell some marijuana illegally today is not going to get a job at a retail (marijuana) location,” Krueger said.
Kreuger said legalization could also generate $2 billion of economic activity for New York.
That's the ka-ching of cash register for the ears of Mitchell Stern, a former journalist who moved to California in 2009, and now sells marijuana seedlings.
Stern has seen the trickle-down effect of legal marijuana on other industries, from restaurants booming near dispensaries, to jobs in commercial agriculture and greenhouse design. Growers spend money building their farms, and pump tax money back into public schools, Stern said.
Stern said the weed business has the potential to be lucrative, but not the “cakewalk” that everyone thinks it is.
“I tell them, would you open up a winery if you didn’t drink wine?” Stern said.
Steven Siegel, who runs a company that sells medical marijuana software, said legalizing pot could create thousands of jobs in New York.
“Any business you can think of right now that is a large industry, marijuana mimics that same industry,” Siegel said.
Siegel said even the smallest grow houses have at least 20 workers.
If you're even thinking about getting into the grass business, says Siegel, get started planing before it's made legal.
“It allows the small guy the first opportunity to grab this ball and enter the arena," said Siegel.