New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that state officials will hold a series of “listening sessions” about marijuana legalization starting next week.
The move is the latest in an intensified evolution of the cannabis policy debate in New York and for Cuomo’s position on the issue personally.
“Community input is critical as we work to draft balanced and comprehensive legislation on a regulated marijuana program in New York,” Cuomo said in a press release. “The multi-agency report identified the benefits of a regulated marijuana market, and with these listening sessions we are taking another important step to develop a model program for New York. We look forward to hearing what New Yorkers in every corner of the state have to say.”
Last year, Cuomo called marijuana a “gateway drug” and said he was opposed to legalization.
But that has changed amid a contentious primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, with whom he clashed over cannabis and other issues during a debate on Wednesday night.
Earlier this year, Cuomo ordered state officials to conduct a study on legalization, the result of which was a July Health Department report that determined the “positive effects” of legalization “outweigh the potential negative impacts.”
Earlier this month, the governor created a working group that is charged with drafting marijuana legalization legislation that lawmakers can consider when their new session begins in January.
Meanwhile, the chairs of four Assembly committees announced this week that they will hold a series of hearings on cannabis legalization this fall.
The state Democratic Party voted to officially endorse marijuana legalization in May, calling it “an important social justice issue.”
And this summer, police and district attorneys in New York City moved to enact relaxed marijuana enforcement and prosecution policies.
The 15 upcoming listening sessions, the first of which is scheduled for Wednesday in Albany, are intended to “garner input from community members and key stakeholders on the implementation of a regulated marijuana program in New York State.”
The full list of listening sessions is below:
Wednesday, September 5 – Albany
Thursday, September 6 – Glens Falls
Monday, September 17 – Bronx
Thursday, September 20 – Manhattan
Monday, September 24 – Queens
Tuesday, September 25 – Brooklyn
Wednesday, September 26 – Staten Island
Thursday, September 27 – Long Island
Monday, October 1 – Newburgh
Tuesday, October 2 – Binghamton
Wednesday, October 3 – Buffalo
Thursday, October 4 – Rochester
Tuesday, October 9 – Syracuse
Wednesday, October 10 – Utica
Thursday, October 11 – Watertown
Photo courtesy of Zack Seward.