New York and Virginia take steps to legalise marijuana

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  • New York will be the 15th state in the US to legalise adult use of marijuana.
  • Virginia has moved to legalise possession of small amounts of weed.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was looking forward to signing the bill into law.


New York lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday to legalise adult use of marijuana, which will make it the 15th state in the United States to allow recreational use of the drug, while Virginia moved to legalise possession of small amounts by July.

The New York State Assembly voted 100-49 to pass a bill legalising recreational use of marijuana by adults late on Tuesday, and Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was looking forward to signing the bill into law.

"New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy," he said in a statement.

New York's step was followed on Wednesday by Virginia, where Governor Ralph Northam proposed moving up the legalisation of simple possession to July rather than wait until 2024.

Northam said racial disparities in prosecution of marijuana-related crimes prompted him to accelerate the timetable. He cited a report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission which found that Black residents were more than three times as likely to be arrested for possessing small amounts of the drug.

"Our Commonwealth is committed to legalising marijuana in an equitable way," Northam said in the statement.

NORML, a pro-marijuana group, earlier welcomed the news from New York, saying that tens of thousands of New Yorkers were arrested every year over petty marijuana offences, and that most were young, poor, and people of color.

"The legalisation of marijuana is a racial and criminal justice imperative, and today's vote is a critical step towards a fairer and more just system," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

The New York State’s official website recently projected that tax collection from the adult-use cannabis program would reach $350 million annually and also create 30 000 to 60 000 new jobs across the state.

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