1) It is a pleasure to have you participate in our NYC summit this year. Please share a bit about yourself and what led you to sponsor the recent amended Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA)?
I have served as the New York State Senator for the East Side, East Midtown and parts of Midtown since 2002. I first introduced MRTA in 2013 after becoming convinced that efforts to modernize New York's drug laws were not going far enough, and that the only way to fully address the failures of the drug war was to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use Cannabis.
2) What aspects of this legislation would have been the most advantageous for cannabis companies and investors in this space?
My focus has always been on ensuring that MRTA provides opportunities for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war to participate in the legal market. Therefore the legislation devotes significant resources to ensuring access to capital and technical assistance to equity applicants.. While the legislation would definitely provide opportunities for other players as well, the bill does try to ensure that participation of larger players in the market does not undermine opportunities for those who have been most impacted by the drug war.
3) What made this legislation stand out from other legislative actions in other states?
New York has the opportunity to learn from what other states have done in host of areas, from packaging to road safety to environmental impacts. But the biggest difference with MRTA is that it places equity at the center of the legal market, which was less true particularly for the states that legalized first. Illinois is probably the closest to the model we are looking at for New York.
4) As we know, unfortunately, the MRTA did not pass in the last session. What should we expect in regards to the next steps towards legalization in New York State?
Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes and I expect to aggressively push MRTA in the coming legislative session, and will be working through amendments to address concerns that were raised during discussions at the end of session. I also think there is a good chance the Governor also includes Cannabis legislation in his executive budget, as he did this year, which would increase the chances of getting this addressed in 2020.