Governor of New York Announces Proposal To Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

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Will 2021 finally be the year that New York embraces marijuana legalization? Wednesday’s announcement from the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, qualified as an encouraging development—though New Yorkers probably shouldn’t start dreaming of dispensaries in the East Village just yet. 

In a statement, the Democratic stalwart said he is prepared to unveil “a proposal to legalize cannabis and create an equitable adult-use cannabis program in [New York state],” a program he said would “generate much-needed revenue, while allowing us to support those that have been most harmed by decades of failed cannabis prohibition.” 

Cuomo will further detail the proposal in the governor’s annual “State of the State” address next week. 

Stop us if you have heard that before. 

Previous Attempts

Cuomo called to legalize recreational pot in his “State of the State” address last year, announcing the proposal as part of a sweeping reform package he said would help New York realize its destiny as “the progressive capital of the nation.”

A month after announcing that proposal, Cuomo said he was off to visit a number of states that had already done away with pot prohibition in the hopes of learning more.

“Everybody has a plan, but can you actually get it done and does it turn out the way you planned it, right? That’s the big question,” Cuomo said at the time. “And that’s where government usually gets into trouble. So I want to make sure we learn from them.”

But by March, hopes for legalization were already dashed, with Cuomo declaring it “not likely” that the proposal would be included in the state’s budget. 

In 2019, Cuomo teamed up with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont in floating a coordinated approach to legalization for the two neighboring states—although that effort also flamed out. 

Now Cuomo is going back to the well once again, two months after voters in another neighboring state, New Jersey, passed their own legalization measure. In a press release on Wednesday, Cuomo’s office said his proposal would create “a new Office of Cannabis Management…to oversee the new adult-use program, as well as the State’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs,” while also establishing 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 the plan is fully put into place, Cuomo’s office said legalization “is expected to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue.”

“Despite the many challenges New York has faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also created a number of opportunities to correct longstanding wrongs and build New York back better than ever before,” Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”

Cuomo’s office said his 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.”

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