Cuomo to Push Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in New York by Early 2019


[What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he would push to legalize recreational marijuana next year, a move that could bring in more than $1.7 billion in sales annually and put New York in line with several neighboring states.

The highly anticipated proposal came in a speech Mr. Cuomo gave in Manhattan on Monday, in which he outlined his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term.

“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, 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.

Ten other states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, spending the new tax revenue on a host of initiatives, including schools and transportation.

The idea is expected to win support in Albany, where Democrats captured the State Senate in November for the first time in a decade. Members of the Assembly, which is dominated by New York City Democrats, have supported such a measure as well.

It follows a report issued in July by a state Department of Health commission that Mr. Cuomo had charged with studying the issue, after Massachusetts legalized recreational use in 2016 and as New Jersey moves to do the same. The commission concluded that the benefit of taxing and regulating the drug outweighed any potential negative effects.

In addition to the tax revenue that marijuana sales would generate, legalizing marijuana could also ease the opioid crisis and mitigate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, the report said.

Already, public officials and policy groups have begun clamoring for different uses of the new revenue. One popular proposal would funnel the money into New York City’s crumbling subway system. Others have said the funds should be invested in the black and Latino communities that have been disproportionately affected by prosecution.

A Quinnipiac University poll in May showed that 63 percent of New Yorkers favored legalizing marijuana.

In the past, Mr. Cuomo has expressed reservations on full legalization, calling marijuana a “gateway drug” last year. But this year he said that the “facts have changed,” nodding to the moves toward legalization in other states.

Leave a Reply