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COVID-19: Legal Recreational Pot Now Unlikely To Be In State Budget

Legal marijuana is not likely to be introduced in New York.
Legal marijuana is not likely to be introduced in New York. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has claimed another victim - at least for now: the possibility of legalized cannabis in New York.

It’ll likely be at least a year before marijuana is legalized in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

With the deadline for the state’s budget coming up this week, Cuomo said he doubted he would be able to get it done in time, as his efforts and resources have been spent battling the spread of the virus throughout the state.

“It’s not likely,” Cuomo said. “Too much, too little time.”

Cuomo has long supported legalizing marijuana, which would be another revenue source for the state. In January, during his “State of the State” address, Cuomo called for legalization, stating that “New York at her best is the progressive capital of the nation, and we must fulfill that destiny again this year.”

New York Democrats attempted to put adult-use cannabis legalization in last year's budget, but negotiations broke down before the deadline over how the tax revenue from marijuana sales would be spent. 

As part of his effort to legalize pot, earlier this year, Cuomo planned to take trips to California, Colorado, Illinois, and Massachusetts, all states where cannabis is legal for recreational use, to educate himself as he pushed for legalization.

Cuomo had previously held a joint summit on the controversial topic with governors in New Jersey and Connecticut, who are also pushing for legal marijuana in their states.

"I also want to make sure that it is done correctly, and you look at states that have legalized marijuana, many of them have generated more questions,” Cuomo stated. “One of those issues that everybody has goals, we want a goal of social equity, we want to make sure young people can't get it, et cetera. We want to make sure there are advantages to communities that have been oppressed.”

Kassandra Frederique, the managing director at the Drug Policy Alliance said her organization remains committed to seeing legalization passed in New York “at a time when critical components of equity and community reinvestment can be thoroughly addressed.”

“Marijuana regulation in New York must be centered in economical and racial justice now more than ever, because we know the same communities targeted by drug enforcement are the ones with the least access to healthcare right now,” she said. “The ones grabbling with decades of the economic toll from criminalization with low wages, unstable housing and the ones losing jobs and loved ones at the same time.

“The creation of a diversified and equitable industry that supports New York-based small businesses and farmers will be imperative coming out of the crisis. When the dust settles and New York has survived this pandemic, these communities that are on the frontlines of this crisis -- in addition to the legacy of harmful enforcement -- must be the center of our rebuilding effort.”

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