N.Y.’s Cuomo Adds Cannabis Legalization to Proposed Budget

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PHOTO: a katz/ Shutterstock.com.

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said provisions had been included in the proposed state budget for 2020 that would legalize adult-use cannabis in New York state.

Now a proponent of cannabis legalization, Cuomo reportedly told media he believed adding the provisions to the budget would give the best chance for recreational cannabis to be legalized, after failed attempts to gain support for adult-use cannabis legislation with state senators.

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Though New York was one of the first states to decriminalize possession of marijuana, in 1977, it’s been a slow road since. The New York Post cited a recent poll that showed voter support for legal cannabis at an all time high, with 58 percent of those polled in favor.

At the end of the 2019 legislative session, New York’s Senate voted against legalizing recreational cannabis. Once a cannabis opponent, as late as 2017, Cuomo reportedly viewed cannabis as a “gateway drug,” but now seems to have had a change of heart with the proposed budget provisions.

Cuomo delivered the 2020 State of the State address in mid-January, which included details of the proposal for statewide adult-use cannabis legalization, which said:

“Governor Cuomo proposes a comprehensive regulatory approach to legalize cannabis, creating a new Office of Cannabis Management to specialize in cannabis regulation—overseeing the medical, adult-use, and hemp programs,” the statement read, as part of its “Opportunity Agenda.”

“The proposal will administer social equity licensing opportunities, develop an egalitarian adult-use market structure, and facilitate market entry through access to capital, technical assistance, and incubation of equity entrepreneurs. The proposal will also correct past harms to individuals and communities that have disproportionally been impacted by prohibition. To safeguard public health, the proposal limits the sale of cannabis products to adults 21-and-over and establishes stringent quality and safety controls including oversight over the packaging, labeling, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products. These efforts will be done in coordination with neighboring states Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

“The Governor will also propose creating a first of its kind Global Cannabis and Hemp Center for Science, Research, and Education with SUNY [State University of New York] and other expert partners,” the statement concluded.

Political news site The Hill reported Cuomo’s State of the State comments indicated that tax revenue from recreational cannabis could reach $300 million annually, but it may take several years for the New York cannabis industry to become established.

State Senator Liz Krueger (D-MANHATTAN) told the Buffalo News that despite many obstacles and opponents that have defeated previous legislation, this time, there’s been a shift in attitude.

“The governor is clearly much more interested this year than he was last year,” Krueger told the newspaper. “The momentum is there and it’s pretty fast and furious.”

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