NY Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA)

The New York City Bar Association applauds the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). The MRTA will legalize the production, distribution and use of marijuana for adults over 21 in New York State, while setting up a system to regulate and tax the product.

The City Bar first supported passage of the MRTA in 2018, calling it “well-crafted” and saying “the harms and costs of marijuana prohibition to individuals and the community significantly outweigh the harms and costs of legalizing marijuana.” That same year, the City Bar testified at a public hearing hosted by a number of New York State Assembly Committees.

The City Bar has long supported marijuana decriminalization. In 1994, our Drugs and the Law Committee issued its report “A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition,” which described the unintended consequences of drug prohibition policy, including continuing pervasive use of illegal drugs, overcrowding of court dockets and prisons, continued threats to public health and safety, and accumulation of wealth through the illicit drug trade. Since then the City Bar has been advocating a new approach to drug policy and the decriminalization of, and ultimately the legalization of, marijuana. Our calls for an end to New York’s marijuana prohibition have been centered on three core principles: the need for the expungement of marijuana convictions; reinvestment of tax revenue into research, education and those communities most impacted by prohibition; and the creation of a market system that allows for fair access.

We have been proud to support the efforts of the broader advocacy community, led by the Start SMART New York Coalition, in calling for marijuana justice that is focused on equity and community reinvestment. We also applaud the work of the bill’s sponsors – Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes – who have spent years working to achieve a framework for legalization that not only provides for production and distribution but attempts to address some of the harms of criminalization on impacted communities.

Marijuana prohibition is a costly, ineffective and failed policy that has devastated families and communities, eroded respect for the law and strained police community relations. We applaud the Legislature and look forward to Governor Cuomo swiftly signing the MRTA into law.