N.Y. senator set to propose bill taxing and regulating marijuana usage


New York, NEW YORK – Following the legalization of marijuana in Colo. and Wash., one New York State senator is determined to change the way N.Y. tackles recreational drug use. Senator Liz Krueger (D), representing N.Y.'s 28th district (encompassing the East Side of Manhattan from about 14th St. to 96th St.), is set to file a bill that will tax and regulate the use of marijuana in the state’s next legislative session. Krueger hopes to legalize the possession and private consumption of marijuana in quantities of two ounces or less.

In a phone interview with the Empire State Tribune on Wednesday, Krueger’s Chief of Staff, Brad Usher, noted he would be “very surprised if [the bill] passed.” Though Senator Krueger and her staff are not expecting the bill to go very far in the 2015 session, they do believe that what they are doing now is laying important groundwork for progress in the years to come.

Legalization of marijuana may have a dramatic impact on New York City's economy. Photo by Michael Martinez.

Usher said that this bill is about “moving the conversation forward” and setting the stage for real and productive change in N.Y.’s future. Senator Krueger has noted the failures of the drug war for too long and has come to the conclusion that it is time to begin working for change.

According to the N.Y. State Senate website, the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration found that in 2012, 12.2 percent of N.Y.’s population had used marijuana within the last year. These numbers have led some to believe that the drug could be a $3 billion dollar industry for the state of N.Y.

The website claims that although marijuana usage is more popular among Caucasians, African Americans and Latinos are arrested on charges of marijuana possession four to seven times more often. Through this legislation, Krueger also hopes to alleviate some of the racial inequality that stems from marijuana charges.

In last year’s session, Krueger filed a similar bill that never made it off the floor. Now, taking cues from what is working and what is not in states that have already legalized marijuana, like Colo. and Wash., Krueger has been revising and refining her bill. According to Usher, this is one of the advantages of not being the first person to pass a certain bill.

In order for N.Y.’s marijuana laws to change, Usher believes that the senator’s colleagues and the public must learn much more about the issue at hand. Over the summer, N.Y. legalized the prescribed use of medical marijuana, which will be fully implemented within 15 months. Krueger and her team are ready to see how these new laws will change the marijuana debate.

“It means that the goal posts have moved,” Usher told the EST, and that fears are beginning to be alleviated about the legal implications of medical marijuana. For Senator Krueger, this marijuana regulation and taxation is not about quick results. She is in it for the long haul.