It’s no longer a question of whether New York will legalize marijuana, its how to go about the legalization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he will effectively end marijuana prohibition by pursuing legislature to create a legal cannabis market.
Gov. Cuomo’s proposal, which is part of the 2021 State of the State, includes an adult-use cannabis program that taxes and regulates marijuana in the same manner alcohol is managed for adults over the age of 21.
“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,” 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.”
According to a press release, a newly created Office of Cannabis Management will help oversee the adult-use cannabis program, along with the likes of the State’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs. Also, an equitable market structure will “invest in individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition” by offering licensing to such entrepreneurs.
The legalization of marijuana in New York is likely to “generate more than $300 million in tax revenue,” according to a press release.
Gov. Cuomo’s proposal will “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,” a press release stated.
Organizations advocating for legalization of marijuana applaud Gov. Cuomo’s announcement, but also hold him accountable to pass a bill dedicated to marijuana justice this session.
“New York still has the opportunity to lead the country on cannabis legalization by establishing the most ambitious and progressive legalization program in the U.S. and implementing cannabis legalization from a social justice lens where other states have fallen short,” Melissa Moore, New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance and member of Start SMART NY Coalition (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade), said. “Given New York’s appalling history with racially-biased marijuana enforcement, we must be bold and innovative in creating justice and equity.
The Start SMART NY Coalition is comprised of organizations and advocates dedicated to criminal justice reform, civil rights, public health, and community-based organizations who support legalization.
“Governor Cuomo and the legislature can cement New York as the national model for marijuana legalization by centering community reinvestment, equity, and justice within our comprehensive reform,” Moore said.