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New York Gov. Cuomo moves forward with legalization plans


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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is moving forward with plans to legalize social use cannabis in the state. Cuomo has appointed a team to draft this legislation, which would eventually be voted on by state legislators, possibly in the upcoming session. New York studied the effects of legalizing cannabis in the state and found the benefits outweigh any possible harms.

“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,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I thank the members of the work group for their time and expertise as we work to craft a model program.”

Many have pointed out that Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon has pushed Cuomo on this issue by voicing her support for legalization, which is popular with most New Yorkers. A poll from May found 63 percent of New Yorkers support legalization, which is similar to the country as a whole.

Doug Greene, the legislative director for NORML’s New York office, told Cannabis News Box that states like Vermont and Massachusetts legalizing has also pushed New York to take legalization more seriously. Canada legalizing, too, may have had an impact.

“Until this year, he supported medical cannabis and further decriminalization, but opposed legalization,” Greene said. He said he has some concerns about what might go into the proposed bill, but it’s too soon to say what will actually be in it. Green said New York needs to legalize so communities of color will no longer be treated like criminals.

“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. “Marijuana prohibition has devastated our communities, saddled hundreds of thousands with criminal records, acted as an easily accessible tool for racially biased policing, and stunted the opportunities for entire generations of mostly New Yorkers of color.”

Regardless of what reason Cuomo is moving forward with this plan, it would have a massive impact on both New York’s criminal justice system and its economy. New York City already directed police to stop arrested people for smoking cannabis in May, which was another example of where the state is going. If New York State legalizes soon, that will mean two of the five most populous states in the country will have legal cannabis.

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