Aides to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said he is on the verge of introducing a plan to legalize recreational marijuana. According to those aides, Cuomo could initiate the process at the beginning of 2019.
Will Gov. Cuomo Move Forward With Legalization?
Reports that Cuomo could be prepared to move ahead with legislation first came this week from the New York Post. According to that report, Cuomo’s aides said that the governor will introduce a plan to legalize weed as part of his executive budget next year. And more specifically, NBC News reported that the announcement could come during Cuomo’s first budget address in 2019.
If Gov. Cuomo does get the process of legalization started next year, it would be a logical next step after actions taken throughout this year.
In January, Cuomo commissioned a multi-agency study. The aim was to explore the impacts of legalizing recreational weed in New York state. In July, the multi-agency group published its findings.
“The positive effects of regulating an adult marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts,” the report concluded.
More specifically, the study found that the recreational marijuana market in New York state would be worth somewhere between $1.7 billion and $3.5 billion per year. That would equate to tax revenues in the ballpark of $248.1 million to $677.7 million.
Additionally, the report stated that legalization could create a significant number of new jobs. Further, legalization could help address issues related to social inequality and racially discriminatory policing practices.
All in all, the Cuomo-commissioned study concluded that legalization would be a net benefit to New York state. Following the report, Cuomo’s next move was to put together a task force to start drafting potential legislation. The 20-member task force went to work in August.
Given all this, there is already a strong foundation in place for New York to keep moving toward legalization. In this context, the word coming from Cuomo’s office now seems to make sense.
Advocates Pushing for Robust Legalization Framework
Undergirding all of this is strong advocacy from legalization proponents and activists. According to NBC News, many legalization advocacy groups are putting pressure on Cuomo.
In particular, they’re pushing to ensure that if legalization happens in New York, it includes a number of specific features. These include:
- A system to expunge all previous marijuana related convictions.
- Ensuring that cannabis businesses include minority business owners.
- Finding ways to ensure that communities disproportionately harmed by prohibition laws—especially poor communities and communities of color—have opportunities to enter the industry.
Additionally, agencies involved in the early stage process so far have talked about important ways to use potential tax revenues. So far, these include funding school and educational programs, fixing infrastructure, improving MTA in New York City, and more.
Whatever happens in the future, advocates said they are prepared to hold Cuomo to his word. Additionally, they’re ready to continue advocating for the right kind of legalization.
“There’s a lot to hope for in the legislative session,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I think it puts the governor’s office in the hot seat.”
She added: “We’re ready with a checklist to hold them accountable.”