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Is NY the Next State to Legalize Cannabis?

Jan 13, 2021

During Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, he discussed a number of COVID-19 recovery initiatives including legalizing online sports betting, making sweeping policy reforms related to law enforcement, and legalizing and decriminalizing adult-use recreational cannabis.

Legalization of adult-use cannabis has been a priority of the governor in the past. His plans regarding adult-use recreational cannabis were first discussed in December 2018 and again in 2019 during similar addresses. Those measures were delayed by uncertainty concerning who could sell cannabis, where the revenue from the sales would go, and the impact of COVID-19. When the governor first addressed this issue, 10 other states had already legalized adult-use recreational cannabis. Today, that number is 15 and growing.

“We will legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, joining 15 other states who’ve already done so,” said Cuomo. He went on to say that legalization will “raise revenue and will end the over-criminalization of this product that has left so many communities of color over-policed and over-incarcerated.”

According to the governor’s office, legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis will create more than 60,000 new jobs, generate $300,000-plus million in tax revenue, and generate over $3.5 billion in economic activity. Part of Governor Cuomo’s plans include establishing an Office of Cannabis Management to regulate the industry in New York State.

Separately, Liz Krueger, Chair of the NY State Senate Finance Committee, introduced a bill to legalize cannabis in New York. This is a similar bill to the one she introduced last year that did not pass. According to Senator Krueger: “Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that disproportionately affects communities of color and wastes valuable law enforcement resources.” Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the New York State Assembly have said they expect the legislature to legalize cannabis in the coming year.

The current push to legalize adult-use recreation cannabis in New York could be viewed as a response to the border states of New Jersey, whose voters approved a legalization referendum in November, and Connecticut, whose governor has also expressed his intent to pass similar legislation in that state.

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