The state Assembly’s budget plan would approve marijuana for medical use in New York while installing a revamped system for taxing the drug.
The one-house budget, which the Assembly began debating Wednesday and is expected to pass, would legalize the drug for patients with serious illnesses while setting up a system for regulating dispensaries and growers.
The plan is similar to the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that has wide support among Assembly Democrats and has picked up some necessary Republican backers in the Senate. But it makes significant changes to a proposed tax on medical marijuana, eschewing a $125-per-pound tax for a 10 percent flat tax on the drug.
The Assembly plan would also reduce the share of the tax revenues counties and municipalities would receive, from 25 percent each to 7 1/2 percent each. The remaining 85 percent would go to the state, with 5 percent flagged to fund alcohol and substance abuse programs.
“The legislature finds that thousands of New Yorkers have serious medical conditions that can be improved by medically-approved use of marihuana,” the Assembly’s proposed budget reads. “The law should not stand between them and treatment necessary for life and health.”
While the Assembly took up its budget Wednesday afternoon, Senate Republicans and the five-member Independent Democratic Conference were still negotiating on a plan of its own. The two caucuses share control of the Legislature’s upper house.
The one-house budget plans are a tradition in Albany, serving as a wishlist of priorities for the majority conferences in both the Assembly and Senate. But they are largely symbolic; the Assembly doesn’t vote on the Senate’s plan, and vice versa.
(AP file photo)