Law & the Courts

Cuomo Calls for Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in New York

A small marijuana plant grows in a lab at the new Commercial Cannabis Production Program at Niagara College in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, October 9, 2018. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday called on state lawmakers to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a full reversal from his warnings about the drug last year.

“We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma, and let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” the Democratic governor said during a speech outlining his priorities for his first 100 days in his third term as governor.

Cuomo said that we have “two criminal-justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else,” and that injustice has “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.”

New York would be the eleventh state to legalize the drug, and would also join Washington, D.C. Legalization is projected to generate $248 million and $677 million in tax revenue.

However, last year Cuomo called marijuana a “gateway drug” and said he was “unconvinced on recreational marijuana.” “Marijuana leads to other drugs, and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” the governor said in February.

Cuomo was pushed to the left on several issues when he faced an unexpectedly challenging primary threat from Cynthia Nixon, who ran on legalizing marijuana. However, he beat the actress for the Democratic nomination by a wide margin.

Over the summer, Cuomo directed a New York Department of Health commission to study the effects legalizing the drug would have in the state. The commission published a report in July stating that the tax benefits of legalizing marijuana trumped any negative consequences.

In August, he commissioned a panel to draw up the necessary legislation to legalize marijuana statewide.

“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,” the governor said in a statement during the summer.

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