New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Vows to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a renewed push to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Empire State.

“I think this should’ve been passed years ago,” he said during a news conference, noting that he’s supported legalization “for years.”

Indeed, this is the third straight year that Cuomo has called for establishing a regulated recreational marijuana market and it comes at a time when the state is facing an estimated $63 billion budget shortfall over the next four years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘I’ve tried to pass it, but this is a year where we do need the funding, and a lot of New Yorkers are struggling,” he said. “So, I think this year will give us the momentum to get it over the goal line.”

Previous attempts to legalize adult-use cannabis sales in New York have failed because of concerns about impaired driving and potential health risks, as well as disagreements over the how to allocate tax revenue.

In a news release, Cuomo said the creation of a commercial cannabis market would “generate much-needed revenue” for the state. A fully-established market would raise about $300 million in tax revenue, according to state budget director Robert Mujica.

In addition to bringing in lucrative tax dollars, cannabis legalization is expected to create opportunities for those most impacted by the War on Drugs.

“I think too many people have been imprisoned, and incarcerated, and punished,” Cuomo said during Wednesday’s briefing. “Too many of those people are Black, Latino, and poor. It’s exaggerated the injustice of the justice system.”

Details about the Cuomo’s proposal were scant, but language in a news release suggests that it will be similar to a plan that was unveiled at his State of the State address in early 2020.

“Under the Governor’s proposal, a new Office of Cannabis Management would be created to oversee the new adult-use program, as well as the State’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs,” the announcement reads. “Additionally, an equitable structure for the adult-use market will be created by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.”

Cuomo is expected to formally introduce the plan at this month’s State of the State address.

His announcement came just one day after state lawmakers pre-filed legislation to legalize and tax cannabis.

According to Marijuana Moment, an 18% tax would be levied on cannabis sales and used to support various state programs, including drug treatment and education.

New York is under pressure to legalize marijuana after voters of neighboring New Jersey approved Question 1, which established a framework for creating an adult-use cannabis market, in November.

New Jersey lawmakers are still finalizing the details of legislation before it is sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for a signature.

If New York moves to legalize recreational cannabis, it could eventually become one of the largest marijuana markets on the east coast.

A news release with additional information is included below.

Gov. Cuomo Announces Proposal to Legalize and Create an Equitable Adult-use Cannabis Program as Part of the 2021 State of the State

Proposal to Create the new Office of Cannabis Management to Regulate State Medical and Adult-use Cannabis and Cannabinoid Hemp Programs

Equitable Market Structure to Invest in Individuals and Communities Disproportionately Impacted by Prohibition

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a proposal to legalize and create a comprehensive system to oversee and regulate cannabis in New York as part of the 2021 State of the State. Under the Governor’s proposal, a new Office of Cannabis Management would be created to oversee the new adult-use program, as well as the State’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs. Additionally, an equitable structure for the adult-use market will be created by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. Once fully implemented, legalization is expected to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue.

“Despite the many challenges New York has faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also created a number of opportunities to correct long-standing wrongs and build New York back better than ever before,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Not only will legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provide the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also allows us to directly support the individuals and communities that have been most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition.”

The Governor’s proposal builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use. In 2018, the Department of Health, under Gov. Cuomo’s direction, conducted a multiagency study which concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found that decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.

In 2019, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the Governor spearheaded a multistate summit to discuss paths towards legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Building on that important work, the proposal reflects national standards and emerging best practices to promote responsible use, limiting the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishing stringent quality and safety controls including strict regulation of the packaging, labeling, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products. Cannabis regulation also offers the opportunity to invest in research and direct resources to communities that have been most impacted by cannabis prohibition.

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