January 31, 2020: State Bar Association Recommends the Legalization of Adult Recreational Marijuana Use in New York

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) today approved a report from the NYSBA Committee on Cannabis Law that supports the legalization of adult recreational marijuana use in New York.

The report outlines suggested strategies for the implementation of legalized cannabis in New York State, and was adopted at NYSBA’s House of Delegates meeting in New York City Jan. 31 as part of the association’s Annual Meeting.

“With the full support of the New York State Bar Association, we are hopeful our report will offer the necessary guidance to New York’s governing bodies as they consider the legalization of adult use cannabis,” said Aleece Burgio (Barclay Damon), who co-chairs the committee with Brian J. Malkin (Arent Fox) and presented the report to the House of Delegates.

“The report provides the necessary details surrounding safety, research, social equity, taxation, and other principles critical to the success of a legalized adult use program in this state,” continued Burgio. “While policy continues to evolve at the federal level, the committee also believes the most effective way to navigate this complex issue is for any comprehensive cannabis proposal to include hemp, medical marijuana and adult use.”

In its detailed 23-page report, the committee said it was not aware of a single jurisdiction that has passed model cannabis regulation and legalized adult-use that would be appropriate for New York to adopt in total. 

However, the committee noted that the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation has been commissioned by several state legislatures for comprehensive advice and analysis prior to developing their legalized cannabis use legislation and believes New York would similarly benefit by commissioning RAND or a similar organization to conduct such a study or analysis.

The report also recommends that any New York legalized marijuana use legislation include:

  • USDA mandated cannabis testing
  • A comprehensive state Office of Cannabis Management
  • Provisions for local municipality “opt-out”
  • Social equity provisions
  • State tax
  • Advertising and marketing guidelines
  • State environmental protections

The committee also endorses an American Bar Association resolution that would resolve a conflict between federal and state law by exempting marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act for production, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana carried out in compliance with state laws.

Under the Compassionate Care Act of 2014, only New Yorkers with prescriptions from qualified medical providers to treat a limited number of ailments may legally use marijuana. 

During the last legislative session, state lawmakers proposed various bills that would have legalized adult recreational marijuana use in New York. No such legislation passed, but legislators compromised by decriminalizing marijuana. Possession of up to two ounces or less is now merely a violation.

In the meantime, many states in close proximity to New York, as well as its neighbor to the north, Canada, have already legalized the use of recreational marijuana or are in the process of doing so. The debate in the Empire State is sure to continue, as the sponsors of recreational legalization bills have already pledged to reintroduce them in the 2020-21 session.

NYSBA’s Committee on Cannabis Law will continue to monitor the evolving legal status of marijuana at both the state and federal level. In addition to offering top-quality cannabis law continuing education and resources for its members, the committee hopes to be a resource for New York lawmakers and federal legislatures to help set the highest possible legal and business standards for legalized cannabis products.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

 

###

Contact: Dan Weiller
[email protected]
518/369-5550