New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his 2019 agenda on Monday morning to the New York Bar Association and it included his plan to legalize adult use cannabis.
“The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well-off, and one for everyone else,” Mr. Cuomo said before introducing the cannabis proposal, describing the injustice that he said had “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.”
“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” he added.
During the midterm elections, the New York State government shifted to a Democratic control and it was expected that the new lawmakers would fully legalize cannabis. There have been estimates that legalizing cannabis could bring in an additional $1.3 billion in annual tax revenues with $336 million for New York City alone.
It was reported in several New York publications that some lawmakers were considering the tax revenues as a way to pay for upgrades and expensive maintenance projects in the subway. “The biggest issue we hear about as elected officials is the state of the subway system,” Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, said in an interview with the New York Times. “To be able to tie these things together is something that could be highly impactful and potentially transformative.”
This would be a huge shift from the Governor who has tapped the brakes on any effort to fully legalize cannabis in the state. Cuomo was also quoted in the past to say that he believed marijuana was a gateway drug. While the Governor did sign medical marijuana into law, the program was very restrictive. Lawmakers were willing to make concessions at the time to the Governor in order to get the legislation passed.
“This is a much different year given the assault of the federal government,” Governor Cuomo said to 1010Wins Radio. “There’s no doubt that New York has to stand up for itself and we have to fight Washington and we have to protect ourselves and we need state laws that do that.”
Polls also show support for legalization with 62% in favor. The NY Health Department has also recommended legalizing cannabis. The Governor held “listening sessions” throughout the year in order to get the public’s opinion on legalization, but maintained he was against recreational cannabis.
“The goal of this administration is to create a model program for regulated adult-use cannabis — and the best way to do that is to ensure our final proposal captures the views of everyday New Yorkers,” said Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens.