There’s been increased talk recently about the possibility of legalizing marijuana in New York state. And today, the state is closer than ever to making that a reality. Earlier today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a concrete plan for legalizing adult use marijuana. The discussion came as part of his annual budget proposal.
Gov. Cuomo Sets the Stage for Marijuana Legalization
Earlier today, Gov. Cuomo delivered his executive budget proposal to state leaders and lawmakers in Albany. In many ways, Cuomo appears to be using his proposed $175 billion budget to advance a number of specific policy issues.
And one of the most striking policy issues Cuomo wrapped up into this year’s budget address is the legalization of adult use cannabis.
In fact, the governor didn’t just mention the idea of legalization. He listed it as his third-highest priority for the first 100 days of the new year.
Interestingly, Cuomo’s discussion today of a proposed path to legalization comes on the heels of earlier hints that the governor might be leaning in the direction of legalization.
For example, Cuomo took a number of actions throughout 2018 that seemed to suggest he was seriously considering legalization.
For starters, he commissioned a multi-agency study into the issue last January. The objective of the study was to gauge the impacts that legalizing adult use cannabis might have on the state.
In general, the report came back positive, concluding that legalization would have more positive effects than negative impacts.
Then, toward the end of 2018, aides to the governor told the press that Cuomo was thinking hard about including a pathway to legalization as part of his 2019 budget proposal.
And today’s address put to rest any confusion over the governor’s intentions. He is now officially and openly advocating for the legalization of recreational cannabis in New York state.
Gov. Cuomo’s Proposed Legalization Program
As outlined in his address today, Cuomo’s proposed framework for legalizing marijuana would:
- Allow adults 21 and older to possess and consume recreational cannabis.
- Establish a system for regulating and taxing recreational retail.
- Provide a system to automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal records.
- Establish rigorous quality control protocols and consumer protection agencies.
- Create a new Office of Cannabis Management to oversee adult use cannabis.
- Implement a 22 percent tax on cannabis wholesalers.
- Set aside cannabis tax revenues for traffic safety, small business development, drug abuse programs, and other social projects.
During this years budget address, Cuomo also said that an adult use program would generate around $300 million in taxes.
Throughout his address, Cuomo touted legalization as a way to address some of the social harms caused by marijuana prohibition in particular, and the war on drugs more generally.
“Legalize adult-use cannabis,” Cuomo said during his budget address. “Stop the disproportionate impact on communities of color and let’s create an industry that empowers the core communities that pay the price—and not the rich corporations.”
At this point, it’s unclear exactly how long it would take for New York to legalize cannabis. Similarly, if legalization were to be approved, it’s unclear how long it would take for retail to be up and running.