New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is making a bold move to legalize recreational cannabis for New Yorkers once and for all. Cuomo announced last Tuesday that marijuana legalization would be part of his 2020 budget proposal. “I believe it is best done in the budget. I said that last year. I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues that without the budget can often languish, and I suggest that we get it done in the budget,” said Cuomo in his speech last week. New York officially decriminalized marijuana back in 2019 with the passage of S.B. S6579A, the New York Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. The bill was formally signed into law by Cuomo. Cuomo in July of last year, with changes set to take effect the following month, including a pathway to record expungement. The legislation fell short of actually legalizing cannabis on the recreational level. Unfortunately, despite such efforts at legalization, New Yorkers continue to face criminal arrest and prosecution for cannabis possession. According to an NYPD report released in November of last year, between July and September 2019, a total of 291 individuals were arrested on charges of unlawful marijuana possession, and approximately 90% were people of color. The exciting announcement comes after his recent annual State of the State address, where Cuomo acknowledged how “...communities of color were disproportionately affected by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws." "Let’s legalize adult use of marijuana,” said Cuomo.
According to a recent press release from the Governor’s office, “this year Governor Cuomo is proposing a comprehensive regulatory approach to legalize cannabis, creating a new Office of Cannabis Management to specialize in cannabis regulation – overseeing the medical, adult-use and hemp programs." The program will focus on "...social equity licensing opportunities, develop an egalitarian adult-use market structure and facilitate market entry through access to capital, technical assistance and incubation of equity entrepreneurs.” The proposal also aims to help individuals and communities Moreover, according to the press release, “the proposal will also correct past harms to individuals and communities that have disproportionally been impacted by prohibition. To safeguard public health the proposal limits the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishes stringent quality and safety controls including oversight over the packaging, labeling, advertising and testing of all cannabis products. These efforts will be done in coordination with neighboring states Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Governor will also propose creating a first of its kind Global Cannabis and Hemp Center for Science, Research and Education with SUNY and other expert partners.”