New York Governor Takes Major Step Toward Marijuana Legalization

Andrew Cuomo assembles committee to draft legalization bill.

Photo by Jon Flobrant via Unsplash

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has moved one step closer to legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. Cuomo appointed a committee tasked with drafting legislation around the recreational usage of cannabis. The committee will use recommendations from the State Health Department to inform the bill, with an expectation that legislators will vote on it in the upcoming session.

“As we work to implement the report’s recommendations through legislation, we must thoroughly consider all aspects of a regulated marijuana program, including its impact on public health, criminal justice and State revenue, and mitigate any potential risks associated with it,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo also urged the drafting committee to start a dialogue with the State Senate and State Assembly, as well as cannabis advocates and sponsors who supported medical marijuana legislation in the state. Alphonso David, who serves as counsel to the governor, will oversee the working committee. The group will “consist of individuals with specialized knowledge, including experts in public health, public safety and economics, and the leaders of relevant state agencies,” according to the press release.

In January Cuomo commissioned a report from the New York State Department of Health to weigh the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana. The 75-page study recommended in favor, stating, “The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts.” One of those positive impacts included a projected $700 million tax revenue from cannabis sales, depending on tax rates and buying figures.

The report also found through regulation of marijuana, including government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sales, would benefit public health. With proper legislation and the inception of a legal cannabis market, New York would be allowed to control licensing, assure quality control and consumer protection, as well as set age and amount limits.

The report also concluded that legalization would reduce racial disparity in enforcing cannabis laws and decrease the incarceration rate in the state.

This support of cannabis legalization can be seen as a change of heart from Cuomo, who previously labeled marijuana as a “gateway drug.” Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s opponent in the state’s gubernatorial race, has created pressure for the incumbent to consider legalization, as she has continually attacked Cuomo for his stances on marijuana.

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