New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday again discussed the need to legalize marijuana in 2021.
During a State of the State address, the governor said enacting the reform will help fill a significant budget deficit and promote restorative justice. The stepped up push comes days after he unveiled initial details of his administration’s latest legalization proposal.
“We will legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, joining 15 other states who’ve already done so,” Cuomo said in the speech. “This will raise revenue and will end the over-criminalization of this product that has left so many communities of color over-policed and over-incarcerated.”
We will legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, joining 15 states that have already done so.
This will raise revenue and end the failed prohibition of this product that has left so many communities of color over-policed and over-incarcerated.#SOTS2021
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 11, 2021
A press release from the governor’s office says that legal marijuana will “create more than 60,000 new jobs, spurring $3.5 billion in economic activity and generating more than $300 million in tax revenue when fully implemented.”
The governor said that he plans to expand on his broader vision for 2021 in three supplemental State of the State speeches, and so it’s possible more details will soon emerge with respect to his legalization proposal. The legislative language for the reform will be included in his budget plan, which is expected to be proposed to lawmakers in the coming weeks.
Cuomo has attempted to enact the policy change through his budget proposals twice before, but that hasn’t worked out in part due to disagreements with the legislature over certain issues such as how to distribute marijuana tax revenue. He described legalization as an administrative priority in last year’s State of the State address as well.
His new plan, as briefly described last week, calls for the establishment of a new Office of Cannabis Management to regulate the state’s marijuana and hemp industries.
The governor also wants to create “an equitable structure” for the cannabis market “by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.”
Watch Cuomo discuss marijuana during his State of the State below:
The state is expected to generate $300 million in annual marijuana tax revenue once the program is fully operational.
Lawmakers separately prefiled a bill to legalize cannabis in New York last week. The legislation, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Liz Krueger (D) and 18 other lawmakers, is identical to a version she filed last year that did not advance.
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It’s unclear to what extent Cuomo’s new plan will address outstanding policy concerns among lawmakers, but it is the case that the legislature will have more influence this year after Senate Democrats secured a supermajority in the November election.
If the governor were to veto any bill over details he didn’t like, they could potentially have enough votes to override him.
“By including marijuana reform in today’s State of the State address, Gov. Cuomo has signaled that this is a top priority in this year’s legislative session,” Melissa Moore, New York state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a press release “When it comes to responsibly regulating marijuana, it’s critical that we don’t just get this done, but we get it right. Equity must be the guiding force, and we will continue to work with the governor’s administration and legislative leaders to ensure any new law comprehensively addresses the harms to communities wrought by the war on drugs through dedicated community reinvestment.”
New York lawmakers have made comments in recent months that indicate they feel legalization as inevitable, despite differing opinions on the specifics.
The top Republican in the New York Assembly said last month that he expects the legislature to legalize cannabis this coming session.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said in November that she also anticipates that the reform will advance next year, though she noted that lawmakers will still have to decide on how tax revenue from marijuana sales is distributed.
Cuomo also said that month that the “pressure will be on” to legalize cannabis in the state and lawmakers will approve it “this year” to boost the economy amid the health crisis.
The push to legalize in New York could also be bolstered by the fact that voters in neighboring New Jersey approved a legalization referendum in November.
Separately, eight other bills that focus on medical marijuana were recently prefiled in New York, and they touch on a wide range of topics—from tenants’ rights for medical cannabis patients to health insurance coverage for marijuana products.
In nearby Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) also talked about his intent to work with lawmakers to enact legalization during his State of the Commonwealth address last week.