The MRTA, or the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, is arguably the most important regulatory document for the cannabis industry in New York State. The 128 pages outlines the legal and regulatory framework for the legal marijuana industry in the state and marks a major milestone in cannabis policy.
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The MRTA was signed on March 31, 2021 by the former Governor. Andrew Cuomo. It allowed adults over the age of 21 to use cannabis for recreational purposes, whereas previously it could only be obtained and used for medical purposes under the New York Medical Marijuana Program, which was created in 2014.
The law not only legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, but also emphasized social justice. He recognized the adverse effects of the War on Drugs, especially on communities of color, and sought to mitigate the harm caused by decades of prohibition.
As part of this effort, legislation aims to allocate at least 50% of cannabis licenses to claimants for social equity, including from communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition, as well as minorities, women, farmers, and disabled veterans.
In addition, the MRTA establishes a tax structure for the legal market: 40% of the proceeds generated will be used for public education, 40% for community grant reinvestment, and 20% for drug treatment and public health programs.
Specifically, the MRTA created the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which is the government agency that oversees the licensing, cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and taxation of cannabis in New York State.
The act also formed the five-member Cannabis Control Board, which is the approval and oversight body for OCM. The board is composed of five members – three, including the chairman, are appointed by the governor, one is appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the other is appointed by the speaker of the Assembly.
The OCM is led by Chief Executive Christopher Alexander and the CCB is led by Tremaine Wright, both appointed by Governor Cathy Hochul.
There is also a Cannabis Advisory Council made up of 13 voting members, seven of whom are chosen by the governor and the remaining six are chosen from the legislature. The Board is responsible for making policy recommendations, providing policy advice, and ensuring that the state’s cannabis program remains effective and fair.
The MRTA also allows some cannabis-related convictions to be erased, with the goal of reducing the long-term effects of cannabis convictions on people’s lives. The legislation allows people with previous convictions for activities currently considered legal under the MRTA to apply for an exemption, helping to remove barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities.