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Cuomo Administration Report Backs Marijuana Legalization In New York

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The administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who until recently referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug,” released a state Health Department report on Friday that says the “positive effects” of legalization “outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

“Numerous NYS agencies and subject matter experts in the fields of public health, mental health, substance use, public safety, transportation, and economics worked in developing this assessment,” the 75-page document says. “No insurmountable obstacles to regulation of marijuana were raised.”

“Regulation of marijuana benefits public health by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana. The creation of a regulated marijuana program would enable NYS to better control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity restrictions.”

The report estimates that legal marijuana sales could generate between $248.1 million and $677.7 million in revenues for the state in the first year, depending on tax and usage rates.

Cuomo first announced the state legalization study during his annual budget address in January. At a press conference on Friday, he said that he had not yet reviewed the new report.

The release of the pro-legalization state document is the latest in a series of cannabis moves the Cuomo administration has made since actress Cynthia Nixon, who is campaigning on an anti-prohibition platform, announced a primary challenge against the incumbent.

On Thursday, for example, the Health Department enacted emergency rules allowing the use of medical cannabis for any condition that would normally be prescribed opioids.

Last week, the state Department of Financial Services and the governor released guidance encouraging banks to work with medical cannabis and hemp businesses.

The new Health Department report says that cannabis legalization comes with the “potential for substantial tax revenue…which can be used to help support program initiatives in areas such as public health, education, transportation, research, law enforcement and workforce development.”

The document notes that cannabis criminalization has historically disproportionately impacted communities of color and that ending prohibition “will address this important social justice issue.”

A Quinnipiac poll released in May found that 63% of New York voters, and 71% of the state’s Democrats, support marijuana legalization.

Also in May, the Democratic Party of New York adopted a resolution endorsing cannabis legalization at its convention.

The statewide push for legalization comes shortly after local cannabis enforcement reforms were announced in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) ordered the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking marijuana in public, and several borough district attorneys have said they will stop prosecuting such cases.

But de Blasio has so far refused to endorse legalization.

Meanwhile, New York’s two Democratic U.S. senators — Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — support ending cannabis prohibition and are sponsoring congressional legislation to remove federal impediments to state reforms.

Among the bullet points included in the Health Department’s new cannabis report are:

  • Regulating marijuana reduces risks and improves quality control and consumer protection.
  • Marijuana may reduce opioid deaths and opioid prescribing.
  • The majority of credible evidence suggests legalization of marijuana has no or minimal impact on use by youth.
  • Legalizing marijuana results in a reduction in the use of synthetic cannabinoids/novel psychoactive substances.
  • Criminalization of marijuana has not curbed marijuana use despite the commitment of significant law enforcement resources.
  • Marijuana prohibition results in disproportionate criminalization of certain racial and ethnic groups.
  • There has been no increase in violent crime or property crime rates around medical marijuana dispensaries.
  • Marijuana regulation could generate longterm cost savings.
  • Regulated marijuana generates tax revenue.
  • Legalization provides an opportunity to educate consumers on what their options are and encourage the use of products with lower doses of THC.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Read: Here’s The Final 2018 Farm Bill That Will Legalize Hemp

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The final text of the 2018 Farm Bill was released on Monday, and industrial hemp legalization made the cut. Votes to send the legislation to President Trump’s desk are expected this week.

The bipartisan provision, championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), will enable U.S. farmers to cultivate, process and sell hemp, the market for which is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

Following the announcement last month that lawmakers in the Senate and House Agriculture Committees had reconciled their respective versions of the agriculture legislation—with hemp legalization in the mix—questions remained about a controversial provision in the Senate version that would ban people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry.

But a compromise was reached and the final version will allow such individuals to work for hemp businesses after 10 years.

Read the text of the final 2018 Farm Bill’s hemp provisions here, followed by explanatory statements from the conference committee:

Farm Bill Hemp Provisions by on Scribd

Marijuana Moment excerpted the above sections dealing with hemp from the full 807-page Farm Bill and committee explanatory documentation.

“While this Farm Bill is a missed opportunity, there are some good provisions,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said in a press release. “One of those provisions is to roll back our senseless hemp prohibition.”

“Our forefathers would be rolling in their graves if they saw us putting restraints on a versatile product that they grew themselves. We have farmers growing thousands of acres of hemp in dozens of states across the U.S. already. You can have hemp products shipped to your doorstep. This is a mainstream, billion-dollar industry that we have made difficult for farmers. It’s past time Congress gets out of their way.”

Under the legislation, hemp would no longer be in the jurisdiction of the Justice Department. Rather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will lightly regulate the crop.

If the bill passes and President Trump signs it, hemp legalization will go into effect on January 1, according to VoteHemp.

Watch: Sen. Mitch McConnell Uses Hemp Pen To Sign Farm Bill Legalizing The Crop

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Watch: Sen. Mitch McConnell Uses Hemp Pen To Sign Farm Bill Legalizing The Crop

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signed off on the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill on Monday…and he used a pen made of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, hemp, to so do.

The senator has been the leading proponent of an industrial hemp legalization provision, which recently made its way into the final version of the wide-ranging agriculture legislation.

“Making it official with my hemp pen,” McConnell wrote in a tweet that includes video of him signing off on the proposal. “Proud to have served as conferee on Farm Bill & to fight for Kentucky priorities.”

“With today’s signature, my provision to legalize industrial hemp is 1 step closer to reality. Looking forward to voting YES on this bill & sending to [President Donald Trump].”

The full text of the final Farm Bill legislation is expected to be publicly released on Tuesday, with votes anticipated in the House and Senate in the coming days.

Lawmakers Reach Compromise Over Controversial Hemp Legalization Felony Provision

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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New York Governor May Include Marijuana Legalization In Budget Proposal Next Month

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) might just go ahead and include full marijuana legalization in his budget proposal set to come out next month, Crain’s reported on Monday.

Two state lawmakers told the outlet that they’d heard rumors about the governor’s plan, which would build on his recent efforts to put legalization on the table during the next legislative session. Cuomo instructed a working group to draft legalization legislation in August after the state Department of Health came out with a report that found the pros of ending cannabis prohibition outweigh the cons.

If the historically anti-marijuana governor, who as recently as last year was calling cannabis a “gateway drug,” did put legalization in his budget proposal, it’d mean “the state could have a fiscal framework for the program as soon as April,” Crain’s reported.

What exactly that fiscal framework would look like is unclear, and Cuomo’s office declined to comment on the report. It’s possible that the budget would account for the costs of whatever legislation the working group ultimately releases; however, since the bill has yet to be released and the governor’s proposal is expected for January, that might be cutting it close.

In 2014, reform advocates expressed disappointment after Cuomo and leading lawmakers agreed to a budget deal that did not include a medical marijuana legalization bill. Months later, Cuomo signed separate medical cannabis legislation and, in the years since, the governor has grown more amenable to broader reform—especially in the heat of a contentious primary battle against Cynthia Nixon this year.

When the state does go forward with legalization, money is going to be a point of particular interest for lawmakers and advocates, as can already be seen as a debate over a proposal to use cannabis sales tax revenue for public transit in New York City intensified last week.

New York Cannabis Clash: Should Marijuana Taxes Fund Subways Or Social Justice?

Photo courtesy of Zack Seward.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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