New York will become the next state to legalize marijuana if Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has his way.
The newly reelected governor for the first time explicitly endorsed ending cannabis prohibition on Monday as part of a speech outlining his “top legislative priorities for next year,” which he framed under the banner of “social justice, racial justice and economic justice.”
“The fact is, we have had two criminal justice systems: One for the wealthy and well off and one for everyone else,” Cuomo said in the appearance at the New York City Bar Association. “And that’s going to end.”
“We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma and let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all.”
In a related press release, Cuomo’s office said he “will end the disproportionate criminalization of one race over another by regulating, legalizing and taxing adult use of recreational marijuana.”
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) December 17, 2018
While Cuomo said in Friday interview that the speech would “get to the meat of the specific legislative issues” and was “not going to be a lot of rhetoric and retrospective,” he did not offer any detail on the provisions he believes a marijuana legalization bill should encompass.
It remains to be seen how the governor feels about issues like cannabis tax rates, businesses licensing structures or whether he believes home cultivation should be allowed or past criminal records should be erased.
Nonetheless, the official endorsement of legalization marks the culmination of a significant evolution on cannabis for Cuomo.
As recently as a year ago he called marijuana a “gateway drug.” But 2018 has seen Cuomo’s position on the issue change dramatically, beginning amid an unexpectedly strong primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, a progressive candidate who ran on a legalization platform.
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 last month’s midterm elections—which Cuomo called “a new political reality” in his speech—advocates believe that marijuana legalization legislation has a good shot of making it to the governor’s desk in 2019.
Also in Monday speech, Cuomo laid out his views on potential action on issues such as health care, education, women’s rights, immigration, gun control and economic policy.
Photo courtesy of Zack Seward.