New York State budget doesn’t include recreational cannabis legalization

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Monday, the New York State budget took effect for a fresh fiscal year. Unfortunately, recreational cannabis legalization was not included in the budget.

Rather, a more solid plan for the rollout of the state’s adult-use cannabis industry will be developed ahead of the session’s end on June 19th by Governor Cuomo and the New York Legislature.

“Probably the biggest single issue that will not be addressed will be the legalization of [cannabis],” Cuomo announced to reporters. “In concept we have an agreement, but…it is complex, and the devil is in the details…if it’s not done after the budget, I believe we get it done after the budget.”

At the current time, 10 U.S. States and the District of Columbia have legalized the plant for recreational purposes. Adult-use legalization unfurled across Colorado and Washington in 2012, followed by Oregon and the District of Columbia in 2014, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada in 2016 and then, last year, Vermont and Michigan. New York, support for cannabis legalization is strong. However, opposition is being felt from all directions, with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Parent Teacher Association and numerous law enforcement unions voicing their concerns about recreational cannabis legalization in New York.

Additionally, the New York State Sheriffs Association and State Association of Chiefs of Police vocalized their disapproval for cannabis legalization. Why? Due to the fact there is currently no funding or strategy in place to impose laws against driving under the influence of cannabis.

Furthermore, cannabis-related commercial businesses – if they were to be established in New York – would struggle to gain support from Chemung, Putnam, Rockland,  Nassau and Suffolk, all of which have said they would opt out.

A clause contained in the New York Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act would permit counties and cities with over 100,000 residents to prevent cannabis business license types from operating within their jurisdictions. For the counties and cities that opt out, cannabis consumers aged 21 and above would still be allowed to buy, consume and possess cannabis from counties that have opted in.

A report was issued by the Nassau County Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation on March 15. The report detailed how the Task Force “recommends that if the New York State Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act is passed in its current form, that Nassau County Opt Out of all cannabis related commercial businesses.”

Regardless, Cuomo doesn’t seem to be phased by the clause.

“I don’t think it’s determinative,” he said back in March. “It does make a difference on the statewide revenues and it will cost those municipalities, localities that opt out because then they would not get the local share of the revenues. But it’s not helpful politically to the passage.”