By Ryan Tarinelli and Marina Villenueve, Associated Press
(AP) — A legislative proposal in New York would go further than states across the U.S. over how much marijuana a person could have before getting in trouble.
The bill, backed by a number of Democrats in both chambers, would allow people over 21 years old to have three ounces of marijuana. The standard, if approved, would set one of the most lenient marijuana possession thresholds in the nation.
Supporters of the proposal say that higher possession thresholds would help prevent people from getting wrapped up in the criminal justice system.
A competing proposal from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo would only permit people to have one ounce of marijuana. New York dispensaries under that plan would be allow to sell one ounce of marijuana per person on a daily basis.
States across the nation have legalized marijuana, but many cap legal possession at one ounce, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The possession threshold is one of a myriad of differences between Cuomo’s plan and the legislative proposal, which is sponsored by by Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
One big issue that could hold up legalization again this year is how the state will spend money from marijuana sales.
Marijuana legalization in New York could eventually bring in $300 million in annual revenues, according to a Cuomo estimate released last year.
Cuomo’s proposal says marijuana revenue would be deposited in a state cannabis fund to be spent on everything from administration, to substance abuse treatment, public health education, to research on cannabis uses. His administration says they don’t want to require specific amounts go to certain areas because they want flexibility as the industry grows and changes.
Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and other legislative Democratic leaders have said they want more specific assurance that revenues will go to communities negatively impacted by enforcement of drug laws.
Besides revenue, there are differences on what violations and criminal statutes will look if the drug is made legal.
Under the plan included in Cuomo’s budget, people caught smoking marijuana in public place could face a fine of $125 fine.
People could face a misdemeanor if they have more than two ounces of marijuana under the governor’s plan. But under the legislative proposal, people found with more than three ounces of marijuana could receive a violation and face a fine of $125.