In comments last week, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for a multi-lateral meeting with his counterparts in neighboring states, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, to discuss legalizing adult use of cannabis. As reported by Politico, the Governor noted, “The federal government is doing nothing, what can we do? And what can we do together? Because it makes no sense to pass one set of rules in New York, where they can drive across the border to Connecticut and have a different set of rules and vice versa.” The Governor noted that he believes the states “can do more together than by working alone,” The group plans to meet on October 17.
A multi-state approach could have the benefit of harmonizing the approach to legalization but has the risk of enhancing the political challenges in achieving the goal of these states approving adult use of cannabis. New York and New Jersey both attempted and failed to pass adult use legislation earlier this year despite Democrat control of both state houses and legislatures. Both states’ Governors have indicated their desire to take up the measures again next year. Nearby Massachusetts approved legalizing adult use in a 2016 referendum.
Separately, on Thursday this week a NY appeals court temporarily blocked Gov. Cuomo’s plan to ban flavored vaping products. The ban was set to begin yesterday. The temporary restraining order only puts the ban on hold for a week to allow vape companies to seek a more permanent injunction stopping the ban. Cuomo and his Health Commissioner have expressed significant concern about respiratory issues connected to vaping.
A number of industry advocates believe that moving towards a legalized and regulated market for cannabis and vaping could be the most effective approach to the vaping issues that have arisen. Recent reports indicate that over 1000 people have been made sick apparently from vaping. The e-cigarette manufacturers have claimed the issues result from illicit products with additives that state-legal manufacturers generally do not add, but scientific conclusions have not yet been reached.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today said that he will support legalization of adult use of cannabis as a key part of the 2019 legislative agenda. In fact news reports suggest he wants to get this done within the first 100 days of his new term next year.
In his remarks on the subject he focused on reversing the stigma of cannabis use and eliminating the targeting of people of color in enforcement of anti-cannabis laws. According to ABC News, in New York City, Comptroller Scott Stringer estimated that legalizing cannabis could yield as much as $1.3 billion in annual tax revenue for the state and about $350 million for New York City alone.
In August the Governor commissioned a work group to focus on drafting the legislation, following the advice of a task force that the benefits of legalization outweigh the risks. The work group has been conducting “listening sessions” throughout the state.
As recently as 2017 the Governor had called cannabis a gateway drug. Given the national trend to legalization and the fact that New York’s neighbor, New Jersey, is about to pass adult use legislation, however, Cuomo has felt political pressure to move ahead.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the New York State Health Department is ready to recommend legalizing adult use of cannabis in the Empire State. Commissioner Howard Zucker was quoted as saying they had reviewed the pluses and minuses and concluded, in a study requested by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, that “the pros outweighed the cons.” The study, started in January, has not been released yet.
Governor Cuomo, as recently as last year, said that cannabis is a “gateway drug.” But he is now facing strong opposition on the issue from his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon. Even his Republican opponent wants to legalize cannabis and use the money to fix New York’s transportation system. He is also feeling pressure from New Jersey’s apparent plan to legalize adult use in the near future, not to mention Massachusetts’ full adult use rollout commencing very soon. This led to his commissioning the Zucker study.
Even with this study recommending legalization, the NY legislature would have to pass a law to make it happen. Republicans, who tend to be more anti-legalization, currently control the Senate while Democrats control the Assembly. So there is no certainty of getting a bill passed. But it appears the momentum is building towards adult use legislation in the nation’s fourth largest state.
In his annual budget address yesterday, NY Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to form a task force to study possible legalization of the adult use of cannabis in the Empire State. Currently the state permits the sale of cannabis only for medical reasons.
Less than a year ago, Cuomo referred to cannabis as a gateway drug and was widely perceived not to be supportive of legalization. Observers believe, however, that politics may be forcing his hand. Neighboring New Jersey’s new Governor Murphy has announced his intention to legalize adult use of cannabis there. In addition, a potential Republican opponent to Cuomo’s reelection this year has announced his support of legalization in New York.
Currently, while cannabis remains illegal under US federal law, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use. More states are expected to approve legal sales later this year in the November elections. Others, like New Jersey, are considering legalization through legislation as opposed to voter referendum. As we know, California’s adult use program was launched to great fanfare on January 1 of this year.
New York, with nearly 20 million people, is the fourth largest US state. This creates the potential for a significant market for legal cannabis sales, state tax and tourism revenues and job creation. Legalization could be particularly helpful for New York’s struggling upstate region, which has not seen major job growth in the current economic recovery.
Forming a task force is a long way from legalization and the opening of cannabis stores in Times Square. Cuomo will center the proposed study within the NY Department of Health, which currently oversees the medical marijuana program. He is asking that the task force look at the economic and health impact of legalization.