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A bill to legalize, tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults in New York state was introduced this week by three state legislators.

In the past 15 years, New York police have made 600,000 arrests for marijuana possession, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports. According to bill chief sponsor State Senator Liz Krueger, in New York, more than 97 percent of marijuana arrests are just for possession.

“Prohibition of marijuana is a policy that just hasn’t worked, no matter how you look at it, and it’s time to have an honest conversation about what we should do next,” Krueger said in a news release. “The illegal marijuana economy is alive and well, and our unjust laws are branding nonviolent New Yorkers, especially young adults, as criminals, creating a vicious cycle that ruins lives and needlessly wastes taxpayer dollars. Worst of all, this system has resulted in a civil rights disaster: African Americans are dramatically more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use among both groups.”

The bill would legalize the purchase of marijuana by those over the age of 21, and would impose a $50-per-ounce excise tax on the sale of the drug. Sales would be overseen by the state liquor authority. Possession of marijuana would be legal for anyone 18 and older.

Possessing marijuana is considered a violation under New York law. If the drug is displayed, smoked or consumed, it becomes a misdemeanor, with a potential sentence of up to three months in jail, the article notes.


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