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Will the Third Try be the Charm for New York’s Adult-Use program?

New York and cannabis have a history together. In the late 1800’s, two groups were known to be using the herb for non-medical use. White intellectuals at the universities and culturally in the literary circles, and the Black and Caribbean populations.

Cannabis, Harlem and the Jazz Age

In the 1920’s Harlem was the center of cannabis use. Folks enjoying its use in “Tea rooms”, which were apartments where music was played, and alcohol was forbidden.  Musicians like Cab Calloway and Fats Waller sang about it. The King of Harlem cannabis was a white jazz clarinetist called Mezz Mezzrow, born Milton Mesirow in Chicago in 1899, who became the principal supplier of Mexican marijuana to Harlem in the 1930s. In honor of him, the high-shelf pre-rolls of the time were called “MezzRolls.

Mezz Mezzrole in the 1930’s


The 1944 LaGuardia Report takes on the Marijauna Tax Act of 1937

It was also the city where, in 1944, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia commissioned an in-depth report of the Sociological and Clinical Aspects of Cannabis. It was intended to combat the misinformation used to make cannabis illegal in 1937.

Here are some of the Sociological conclusions of the report:

  • The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
  • The sale and distribution of marihuana is not under the control of any single organized group.
  • The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.
  • Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
  • Marihuana smoking is not widespread among school children.
  • Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marihuana.
  • The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.

It was also the place where the Beat generation of writers like Jack Kerouac and others popularized its use.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, second from left, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, second from right, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, far right, co-host a regional summit on public health issues around cannabis and vaping, Thursday Oct. 17, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

New York Goes Medical

But it was not until 2014 that New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature enacted the Compassionate Care Act, making cannabis legal for medical use.

Four years later, in 2019, Coumo and the legislature tried to pass an Adult-use law, but it was defeated when lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on implementation. The Senate  lacked the votes needed to pass the measure in an up-or-down vote.

They did, however, pass a law in 2019 that decriminalized many of the offenses associated with cannabis sale, purchase, and possession.  The new law reduced the penalty for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a $50 fine. It also lead to the expungement of 160,000 convictions for simple possession.

In 2020, Cuomo and the state legislature tried again, but the COVID crisis shut down the legislature. The bill that was crafted didn’t make it into the state budget, killing it for that year. “Marijuana and the gig economy were two of the more complicated initiatives that we wanted to work through that we didn’t get a chance to do” the Governor noted. It also created a $15 billion budget deficit.

COVID Goes from Enemy to Ally of Adult-use

But in 2021, the same invisible enemy of New York may have become its greatest cannabis advocate. At the start of the legislative session, in his State-of-the-State address, Gov. Coumo started his third attempt to get Adult Use passed in New York, and the bill was filed on the first day of the session.

He stated that COVID has severely hurt the New York Economy, making Adult use Cannabis sales the potential savior. His economic advisor predicted that it would provide an addition 300 million is tax revenue.

It has become a ritual for many cannabis users who didn’t want to use the black market in New York to travel by car to Massachusetts legal product. Last November, New Jersey passed their Adult-Use amendment by an overwhelming margin. That meant potentially bringing legal cannabis closer to NYC. Coumo realized that it meant a huge amount of commerce was being lost to New York.

Adult-u$e brings Revenue, Social Equity and Opportunity

“This program will generate much-needed revenue, while allowing us to support those that have been most harmed by decades of failed cannabis prohibition,” the governor stated. He made certain that social equity measures were in the new bill. In 2019 and 2020, the lack of those measure was an issue with the liberal side of the legislature. They found the bills to corporate-friendly. “I think this should have been passed years ago,” Cuomo said during a Wednesday morning press conference, “This is a year when we do need the funding, and a lot of New Yorkers are struggling,” he added.

And within the new law is added allowances for consumption lounges. In the past, consumption law had following the rules for tobacco smoke. This year, if it passes the legislature (New York does not have the ballot initiatives that other states do), opportunities with abound in New York to welcome back a part of its history.

Bud’s Place is the very first franchise of consumption lounges. There are opportunities for a single or multi-unit available in the state and the city that doesn’t sleep. Contact us for more info.

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