New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed that the state will legalize adult-use cannabis in 2020.
He used his State of the State address to declare that the industry could bring in $300 million per year in tax revenue and billions more in economic activity. Cuomo was keen to see recreational marijuana legalized in 2019, but bills failed to pass through the state legislature before the end of the session.
Marijuana was decriminalized last year, but now Cuomo wants to go one step further and introduce full legalization. He believes it will help address social inequality that has existed in New York for years.
“For decades, communities of color were disproportionately affected by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws,” said the governor.
He added that decriminalization amounted to righting an injustice. He now wants New York to roll out a fully legal industry and work with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to coordinate a safe and fair system in the northeast region.
Cuomo convened with the governors of those three states in October 2019, and they agreed to work together on a regional consensus for a legal recreational marijuana industry. All four governors are Democrats.
The plans include setting similar tax rates and common standards on THC content, edibles, and advertising. They believe regional consistency would help enforcement efforts and aid efforts to seize market share from illicit marijuana suppliers.
Last year Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana and New York could become a major player in the U.S. cannabis industry if it becomes the 12th.
In 2014, Cuomo signed legislation that permitted the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Five contracts were awarded to private marijuana growers, each of whom was permitted to cultivate marijuana and operate four dispensaries.
The medical marijuana industry has continued to grow, and Cuomo appointed a new “cannabis czar” last month to help it flourish. Norman Birenbaum headed up the medical marijuana program in Rhode Island, and he is now Director for Cannabis Programs in New York.
The legislature resumes this month and Cuomo is determined to see recreational marijuana legalization at the top of the agenda.
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