New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come a long way, baby. In 2017, he said, “I support medical marijuana. I don’t support recreational marijuana,” adding that cannabis “leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of truth to proof that that’s true.”
Today, in a speech in at the New York Bar in Manhattan outlining his 2019 agenda for the state, Cuomo declared: “Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all.”
What accounts for the governor’s stunning change of heart and opinion? Let’s count the ways:
• With Michigan voting to legalize marijuana in November, now 10 states have followed the leads of Colorado and Washington when they changed their pot policy in 2012.
• Border state Massachusetts, which voted to legalize adult use in 2016, just started opening up shops last month. New Yorkers can now cross over to the Bay State for cannabis products; however, it’s illegal to bring them back to the Empire State
• Since the election of Phil Murphy as governor in 2017, the New Jersey legislature has been moving full speed ahead in shaping a bill that all parties can agree on. It looks that won’t be resolved until next year.
• Another border state Vermont passed legalization via legislation in July, but doesn’t yet allow commercial sales. That will change soon. Another border state Connecticut is also looking to get in on the recreational Green Rush.
• The taxes, it’s all about the taxes. New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson has proposed using cannabis revenues to pay for New York subway repairs and improvements. Everyone wants a piece of the tax action, including Cuomo.
But not so fast. First legislation, the Marihuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA), has to be passed by New York’s fully Democratic legislature come January.
“Gov. Cuomo and the legislature must implement legalization in a way that ensures equity and diversity while reinvesting in communities hit hardest by marijuana criminalization,” says NYS director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Kassandra Frederique. “The MRTA does all of these things, so Gov. Cuomo and the new Democratic majority have a golden opportunity to get legalization done the right way, right away.”
The clock is now ticking. Which state will legalize first, New York, New Jersey or Connecticut?
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Author: Steve Bloom