Updated on August 5, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Governor Andrew Cuomo is strongly supporting marijuana legalization. He hopes to persuade governors and voters in the surrounding states. The push by Cuomo for legalization is significant. New York is a very influential state; it might set the pace for other states to follow suit. Soon there could be marijuana laws USA changes. These changes could be very significant for all interested parties.
The Same Marijuana Legalization Plan Was Tabled Last Year in New York
Last year New York lawmakers had the same legalization plan on the table. But then it was expectedly opposed by conservatives, law enforcement, and teacher groups. The plan was also unexpectedly opposed by progressive activists. These activists stated that the legalization plans did little to help minority communities. They said how most states that have legalized marijuana hardly helped minority communities.
These communities are victims of unfair drug-law enforcement, and POC (people of color) arrest rates can be 4x’s as high compared to caucasian citizens. A prior arrest (misdemeanor or felony) can close doors for black Americans. For cannabis business ownership, and employment opportunities.
Balancing Cannabis Industry Opportunities After the “War on Drugs”
The progressive activists pushed for an amendment to the legalization law. Rather than accept a law that maintains unfair policies, they decided to oppose it. The current War on Drugs policies targeted black and Latino communities. For these activists, incremental progress is not always the answer. “You have to look at the opportunities lost through incremental progress,” says Shanita Penny, a longtime cannabis equity activist.
Marijuana legalization plans should benefit all New Yorkers, activists firmly state. New York lawmakers could not agree last year on the legalization plan’s specifics for minority communities. Strong opposition from lawmakers of conservative areas outside New York. Some legislators pointed out the need for specifics in the law itself.
If New York legalizes, it will be a major step towards national legalization. Many investors reside in New York. The majority of these investors felt disappointed. This was because last year’s legalization efforts failed. Most of them are hoping that this time New York will get the law right. With the right cannabis scheduling in place, the only legalization remains. This will attract the best marijuana industry leaders to set up or expand in New York.
A Powerful Centralized Office
Cuomo’s proposal includes plans to create an Office of Cannabis Management. A powerful centralized office that will be instrumental for policy and regulation. The office’s goal is to oversee and regulate the industry. It will ensure women, minorities, and farmers get adequate help. Acquiring licenses should no longer be a problem, according to advocates.
Critics were also quick to point out that a powerful central office could be politicized. This is a great risk considering the huge sums of money at stake. Still, both the advocates and the critics agree on one thing. Minority communities should gain from new business opportunities.
The plans include people who, in other circumstances, might not qualify for a license. The plans allow them to join cooperatives. A new option for applicants with adversities instead of shutting them out completely. The plans also include tax money collected on cannabis sales. This money will help boost marijuana businesses in targeted communities.
“I support the legalization of marijuana passage. I’ve worked very hard to pass it. I believe we will. But we didn’t get it done this last session because it’s a complicated issue. It has to be done comprehensively”.
—Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
What New York May Gain in Taxes May Help Coronavirus Relief
Cuomo also has plans to persuade Connecticut and Pennsylvania to embrace similar plans. New Jersey and Illinois seem to have plans like Cuomo’s. According to Gov. Cuomo, legal marijuana in New York could generate $300 million in new taxes. With the current budget deficit of $6.1 billion, the new taxes will bridge the great budget gap.
Critics remain skeptical and see legalization as unlikely in the foreseeable future. Earlier this year Gov. Cuomo states that recreational marijuana was not a priority (March 2020). But that was before the state of New York felt the brunt, human, and fiscal cost of the Novel Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.
However, Cuomo seems more engaged than ever. The decriminalization of marijuana by softening penalties is in place. Previous arrests for small amounts of weed are now not part of criminal records. New York is well on its way to full legalization. With some incentives and accommodations for patients who prefer doctor supervision instead of recreational access to cannabis.