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Governor Cuomo announces proposal to legalize marijuana in New York this year

This year could finally be the year.

Will Gleason
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Will Gleason
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Could this be the year New York finally legalizes marijuana?

For the third year in a row, Governor Andrew Cuomo is using his State of the State Address to call for the legalization of recreational marijuana use in New York. He previously called on the state legislature to legalize recreational use of the drug in 2019 and in 2020, before the ongoing COVID crisis derailed those plans.

Encouragingly, there are some signs that this could be the year when the measure finally passes. Largely due to the economic fallout from the pandemic, New York is looking at a major budget deficit of about $15 billion and is desperate for any means to raise additional revenue. On top of that, our next-door neighbors in New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana use in November, perhaps forcing the New York legislature’s hands on the issue.

So what exactly does New York’s legal weed future look like? In his State of the State address on Monday, Cuomo will be calling for the formation of an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee both the new program and the state’s already existing medical marijuana one. Crucially, it would provide licensing opportunities for those in communities disproportionately affected by enforcement of drug laws in the past. A sticking point (along with revenue distribution) in past negotiations.

If passed, the new law would let New Yorkers over the age of 21 buy marijuana at state-approved dispensaries. The mayor’s office predicts that the program could bring in an estimated $300 million in tax dollars marijuana sales and licenses to sell the drug and, with Democratic controlling both chambers in Albany, there’s a strong chance it will pass.

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