New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) indicated on Thursday that the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak could interfere with plans he had to tour legal marijuana states and learn from their experiences as his own states moves ahead on reform.
During a press conference on the status of combating the spread of the virus, Cuomo was asked whether the situation meant negotiations on the state budget—though which he hopes to enact legalization— would be impacted and whether he still intends to embark on the cannabis learning tour, as he announced last month.
The governor didn’t directly respond to the question, but he made clear that the coronavirus is the administration’s top priority at the moment, and the crisis is likely to last much longer than other emergencies the state has had to manage.
“I hope that we can get that done on time, but this is a priority,” Cuomo said. “There’s no doubt about that. And only I can do this.”
“This has been almost all-consuming for me,” he added. “Again the greatest obstacle that we face here is not understanding the situation or fear or underlying anxiety. The only way I know to combat that is to communicate with the people of the state and try to clear up any misinformation they have or any confusion they have.”
He went on to say that we “know the agenda in the budget” and he’s “not going to shortchange the items we have in the budget.”
It’s not clear whether the coronavirus response will have a broader impact on plans to legalize marijuana through the budget ahead of an April deadline.
If the governor isn’t able to reach an agreement to that end, it would mark the second time the Cuomo had included the proposal in his own plan without success in the legislature. He spent months negotiating with lawmakers last year only to have the reform move stall out over certain policy disagreements.
In his State of the State address in January, the governor indicated that 2020 would be a different story. However, that was well before the coronavirus became a major public health threat across the country.
Cuomo has also taken the step of meeting with governors of neighboring states to develop a regionally coordinated legalization plan. In December, the top state officials met and agreed to a set of governing principles their respective cannabis models should adhere to.
This isn’t the only drug policy reform effort that is expecting to be impacted by the virus. Over in Washington, D.C., activists are asking the mayor and City Council to allow for online signature gathering for an initiative to decriminalize psychedelics, citing concerns about potential exposure to coronavirus through in-person signature collection in the district.
Photo courtesy of New York Governor.