Less than a month ago, the New York Department of Health released a report that supported the prospect of legalizing and regulating the sale and consumption of cannabis. Now it appears that Governor Andrew Cuomo may have changed his mind on the idea of legalization, as his office appointed a 20-person workgroup to draft legislation for adult use and legal sales. This is the first solid step the state has taken – and quite a turnaround from the severely restrictive medical marijuana law they passed only a couple of years ago.
“I have reviewed the multi-agency report commissioned last January and have discussed its findings with Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release announcing the workgroup.
The workgroup includes health officials, law enforcement leaders, the state budget director, public policy experts and others – all chosen by Cuomo. The team will be working off of the reported recommendations made by the NY Department of Health to write the draft legislation that would regulate a legal cannabis industry.
“The next steps must be taken thoughtfully and deliberately. As we work to implement the report’s recommendations through legislation, we must thoroughly consider all aspects of a regulated marijuana program, including its impact on public health, criminal justice, and State revenue, and mitigate any potential risks associated with it. I thank the members of the workgroup for their time and expertise as we work to craft a model program.”
Governor Cuomo has hopes that legislators will be able to at least begin to consider a marijuana legalization bill in the upcoming session – meaning he is prepared to move forward on this sooner rather than later. This is a big turn-around from comments made by the governor as recently as last year where he called cannabis a “gateway drug”, and it is certainly a welcome step forward for those who have been fighting for legalization in New York.
“We are pleased that the Governor has studied the existing evidence and data presented in the Department of Health report and accurately concluded that legalizing marijuana for adult-use is the right choice for New York,” Chris Alexander, policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement to Marijuana Moment.
If all goes well, lawmakers could be voting on a cannabis legalization bill as early as January 2019 – and it appears that, if passed, it would almost certainly be signed into law. Though it is only a start, it is more progress than many have expected from New York lawmakers.