New cannabis bill introduced by New York lawmakers for regulatory oversight

The proposal also contains a provision to prevent law enforcement officers from detaining/arresting an individual or searching his/her car based on the detection of pot odor

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New cannabis bill introduced by New York lawmakers for regulatory oversight

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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Lawmakers in New York are feeling optimistic about a new cannabis legalization bill that they believe will get further than a previous bill did at the FY 2019 New York State Executive Budget.

The bill aims to streamline a set of governmental rules for the regulation and oversight of a cannabis retail market, which will feature a broad scope of hemp and CBD products. The proposed legislation includes a number of ideas discussed by New York’s 56th Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the state legislature during recent budget meetings. Currently, hemp and CBD products constitute an unregulated segment of the market; something that will hopefully be cleared up under New York’s cannabis legalization bill.

“We’ve attempted to take all of the negotiated agreements that took place during budget negotiations and expand our bill,” said long-time cannabis advocate, Democratic Manhattan Senator Liz Krueger.

Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is the sponsor of New York’s cannabis legalization bill

In addition to being the bill’s primary sponsor, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is also a Democrat from the bustling city of Buffalo. She hopes that the cannabis legalization measure will contain a social equity provision she has backed for quite some time.

(Pictured) Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes

“I am working on amending the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act to incorporate many aspects of Governor Cuomo’s proposal, including having one regulatory body overseeing medical [cannabis], hemp extracts and adult-use cannabis, while preserving the core principles of MRTA, such as significant dedicated investment in communities most harmed by [cannabis] prohibition, equity in the industry, permitting individuals to grow cannabis for personal use, and addressing past criminal convictions,” explained Peoples-Stokes.

Communities throughout New York that have been impacted by cannabis prohibition will have a chunk of the tax revenue accrued from pot retail sales bestowed upon them. Peoples-Stokes says that the money will be funnelled into the growth and rebuilding of communities worst inflicted by mass incarceration.

“It is my hope that this legislation will be approved by the Legislature, and there will not be a need to take up separate legislation that updates the medical [cannabis] program, and regulates hemp/CBD. A certain percentage of it would go for research, drug prevention and treatment,” Peoples-Stokes added.

Furthermore, the bill focuses on the expungement of certain cannabis-related crimes.

New York businesses are concerned about push for recreational legislation

The concept of legal cannabis in New York has not been well-received by everybody. As many as 190 members of the State Business Council are worried about the potential negative repercussions associated with adult-use cannabis legalization. Among those members are healthcare specialists, product manufacturers and business owners.

(Pictured) Director of the Business Council’s Center for Human Resources, Frank Kerbein

Frank Kerbein is the Director of the Business Council’s Center for Human Resources. During a recent webinar, he publicly aired his concerns about prospective recreational cannabis legalization in New York.  

“Even if New York Legalizes [cannabis], it’s still illegal at the federal level,” he said, adding that, “a lot of employers work just not in New York but other jurisdictions, and would run into the tension and conflict that exists between state and federal law.”

“Secondly, they’re worried about being able to determine impairment at the workplace – not having a test that’s available to determine impairment at the workplace,” said Kerbein.

Based on federal law, cannabis is still deemed to be a Schedule 1 controlled drug. Its classification puts it side-by-side with addictive and dangerous narcotics like LSD, heroin and crack cocaine. Drugs labeled with this classification are considered to carry a high risk for abuse and have no medical benefits; a claim that could be quashed by an emerging smorgasbord of scientific evidence exposing cannabis’ therapeutic properties.

If New York’s recreational cannabis legalization bill is approved, motorists in possession of pot could be safeguarded from law enforcement action. The proposal contains a provision that would prevent law enforcement officers from arresting or detaining an individual if they believe they can smell the odor of cannabis in its raw or burnt form.

New York adult-use legalization bill may prohibit police searches of skunk-smelling cars

A provision contained in New York’s adult-use legalization bill may also prevent law enforcement officers from carrying out a search of the suspected cannabis consumer’s vehicle and/or confiscating the findings as evidence. By stopping vehicle searches based on the detection of cannabis odor, proponents say that people of color can avoid being disproportionately targeted by the long arm of the law.

In some instances, police officers may discover a minute quantity of cannabis inside a consumer’s vehicle. Cases like this won’t necessarily lead a police officer to the source. However, other scenarios in which a larger quantity of cannabis is discovered after an officer sniffs out its potent scent may actually point law enforcement officials in the direction of a black market dealer or cartel.

The discovery of different substances – i.e. guns and/or alternative narcotics – may occur after an officer finds weed inside an illicit drug gang member’s vehicle. In these instances, the provision contained in New York’s cannabis bill seems practical.

“If you eliminate the possibility of not being able to search the car at that point, you are going to potentially lose out on the ability to procure evidence,” said the District Attorney for Erie County, John Flynn. “If that language is in it, I’ve got a problem with that.”

On the other hand, advocates believe that if the plant is made legal in New York, so too should its smell be. Having a reasonable suspicion about a drug-related crime should be sufficient for an officer to conduct a search, some say. After all, if cannabis is legalized in New York, consumption and possession will also be legal under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

Legalizing recreational pot will impose restrictions on possession and consumption whilst driving

(Pictured) District Attorney for Erie County, John Flynn

New York was on the cusp of approving adult-use cannabis legalization earlier in Spring. The bill was backed by the Democratic-dominated Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Unfortunately, it failed to pass, but proponents of cannabis reform are feeling hopeful about an amended bill that will now be put before legislators.

If cannabis is legalized for recreational purposes in New York, it doesn’t mean that consumers will be allowed to drive around with hundreds of pounds of weed in the trunk of their car, according to Flynn.

Moreover, if an individual gives a police officer reason to suspect them for being weed-impaired after smelling the plant, the officer would legally be able to carry out a search on the vehicle. Much like someone would be charged for driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, the same rule applies for cannabis under the Assembly bill.