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New York’s Pending Cannabis Legalization

22 Dec New York’s Pending Cannabis Legalization

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced plans to make the legalization of marijuana a top priority in 2019. This issue is just one of several plans to be addressed in the first 100 days of his third term, as Governor Cuomo outlined during a recent speech to the New York State Bar Association. For many years, Governor Cuomo took a harder stance against the drug and even referred to it as a gateway drug, but he has since changed his view as numerous other states throughout the country including New Jersey have legalized the substance.

Support of Marijuana Legalization by NYC’s Mayor

The push toward marijuana legalization in New York was recently pushed forward by Mayor De Blasio, who was not previously an advocate of legalization. Behind the Mayor’s decision to support legalization was a 71-page report issued by the Mayor’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization. The department recommends the taxation of marijuana in New York City. New York City has already begun to lessen the severity with which the city prosecutes marijuana possession, with most New York City residents who are found smoking in public now facing criminal summons rather than being arrested. New York City district attorneys have also stopped prosecuting low level marijuana possession and smoking cases with the exception of those involving individuals who possess 10 bags or more of marijuana as well as individuals who demonstrate a public threat. There are also 3,000 outstanding misdemeanors in New York City involving marijuana possession which have been dismissed and sealed.

Funding as a Motivation for Marijuana Legislation

New York City’s subway system is currently undergoing a crisis, which might add urgency to the approval of marijuana in the state. Subway officials currently report that more than $40 billion is needed to modernize the system. Currently, the illegal marijuana market in New York is reported to be approximately $3.5 billion annually. As a result, legalizing marijuana could potentially generate billions if not millions in annual tax revenue. One New York City public advocate has even proposed a “Weed for Rails” program in which half of the revenues from the state’s sale of marijuana would go toward public transit. Governor Cuomo, however, has not yet stated whether he plans to use the proceeds from the sale of marijuana to support New York City’s subway. Other politicians have argued that the revenue from marijuana should be used to support “black and brown” communities, which were historically affected by marijuana enforcement laws.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Cannabis Regulation Lawyer

Time will tell exactly what will happen if marijuana regulations are relaxed in New York. After a series of sessions were recently held to receive public feedback about marijuana legalization, Governor Cuomo has a goal of drafting a marijuana bill in 2019. If you are interested in learning more about the interplay between state and federal marijuana laws and policy, contact the attorneys at Heerde Blum LLP today by visiting us online or calling (212) 920-5858 or (213) 770-5757.