New York will be one of the next states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, that is if Governor Andrew Cuomo has anything to say about it. The Democrat announced earlier this week that his administration plans to make pot reform a high priority in 2019, signaling a major shift from the opposing stance he took on the issue just months ago. It seems Cuomo has been convinced that marijuana prohibition has had a negative impact on the state and he plans to utilize the first 100 days of his third term to make a change.
In a speech delivered on Monday, Cuomo, who was expected to use the platform to outline his plan to unleash recreational marijuana in the coming year, revealed that a taxed and regulated pot market was, in fact, coming to New York. “Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” he told those in attendance of the highly publicized event in Manhattan.
The governor alluded that his decision to legalize weed had more to do with protecting the rights of citizens than the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that would be generated with this plan.
“We have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well-off and one for everyone else. And that’s going to end,” he said, pointing out that minorities, specifically blacks, have been historically caught on the wrong end of the decades-long ban on marijuana. “We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma.”
— 7 Eyewitness News (@WKBW) December 17, 2018
Governor Cuomo’s endorsement of legal weed comes after years of opposition. It was just last year that he said marijuana legalization wouldn’t happen in New York because pot is a “gateway drug” that only stands to worsen the state’s drug problem. However, Cuomo ordered the New York State Department of Health to study the concept of legalization, which brought about a striking report that was published earlier this year. It is likely the results of the analysis, which indicated “the positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts,” that inspired Cuomo to see legal weed in a more common sense light.
It could have also been the money. A separate report published over the summer by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer shows the state could generate around $500 million in tax revenue from the legalization of marijuana. The Health Department’s analysis shows the haul would be more like $700 million. So, give or take a million or so, the state stands to enjoy a nice economic boost as a result of legal weed. It’s money that lawmakers are already trying to figure out how to spend.
Legal marijuana states have traditionally allotted tax dollars for schools and road construction, but there is a push in New York to use the money generated from the retail reefer sector to pay for a proposed $40 billion overhaul to the subway system.
But there are broader implications associated with New York’s push to join 10 other states and the District of Columbia in the legalization of marijuana. A change in New York’s pot laws could influence the federal government to take legal weed to the national level. While other states have acted frightened by the anti-pot stance of Uncle Sam, especially the wrath of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Cuomo is taking leadership on the issue.
“Let this agenda be New York’s Declaration of Independence,” he said. “We declare independence from this federal government’s policies. We disconnect from the nationalism and the racism and the chaos and the xenophobia and the misogyny and the discrimination and the dissembling of this Washington administration.”