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New York Gov. Cuomo Pledges Marijuana Legalization In Inaugural Address

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) reiterated his newfound support for legalizing marijuana in his inaugural speech on Tuesday, just after he was sworn into a third term in office.

“When they write the history books and ask what did we do – in the face of anger and division, when people were disillusioned, let New York’s answer be that in this defining moment we brought healing and light and hope and progress and action,” he said in his remarks as prepared for delivery. “That New York led on legalizing recreational marijuana, bringing justice and new economic opportunity not for rich corporations, but for the poor communities that paid too high a price for too long.”

The focus on social justice and opportunities for people who have been targeted by marijuana prohibition enforcement echoes comments from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), often a rival of Cuomo’s, who also endorsed legalization last month.

In his inauguration speech, the governor promised to propose “the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period,” within 100 days, noting that marijuana legalization is part of that.


Cuomo formally endorsed legalizing cannabis for the first time in a separate speech last month in which he laid out his priorities for New York’s 2019 legislative session. The remarks were the culmination of a rapid evolution on marijuana for the governor, who referred to the plant as a “gateway drug” as recently as a year ago.

In August, the governor formed a working group to draft a legalization bill after a state Department of Health report, which he commissioned, found that the benefits of legal cannabis outweigh its potential consequences.

With Democrats taking control of the state Senate in November’s midterm elections advocates believe that marijuana legalization legislation has a good shot of making it to the governor’s desk in 2019.

Separately, on Monday, pardoned several people facing deportation for drug crimes and other offenses.

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-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.

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