Good news for cannabis investors as the New York state Senate passed a bill late Thursday evening to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana after failing to agree on a comprehensive package to fully legalize its recreational use — for now.
The Senate easily passed its bill 39-23, and the Assembly approved it Friday morning, according to a Bloomberg report. Assembly vote totals were not available.
Full recreational legalization is still the ultimate goal, lawmakers said.
“This is not the final step, but it will lay the groundwork for full decriminalization and legalization,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement.
Individuals will be able to avoid criminal charges for holding less than two ounces of cannabis, and will have to pay a $50 fine for less than one ounce, and $200 for one to two ounces. The law also provides a way to expunge previous convictions for possession.
A bill to expand the medical use of cannabis was dropped from consideration for the time being.
For New York, legalization would have created a new industry and a statewide adult market of at least $3.1 billion, including at least $1.1 billion in sales within New York City, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a report backing legalization a year ago. Tax revenue would have exceeded $336 million for the city and $436 million for the state, he said.
To those who had hoped New York would become the 12th state to legalize pot, Heastie said, “in government, people have to realize sometimes you don’t get everything that you want all in one shot.”
At the Drug Policy Alliance, which had pushed for legalization, New York State Director Kassandra Frederique said that while the new law would allow deletion of criminal records for about 900,000 low-level marijuana arrests in the past 20 years, it still allowed police to arrest individuals for “wide-ranging instances of marijuana possession.”