New York

Cuomo Proposes Study on Legalizing Marijuana in NY

"Marijuana — things are happening," Cuomo said

What to Know

  • Cuomo proposes a study looking at how the legalization of marijuana would effect New York
  • Neighboring Massachusetts has legalized recreational marijuana and New Jersey's new governor campaigned on it
  • Medical marijuana has already been legal in New York for several years

In his 2018 budget plan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a study that would look at the impacts of legalizing marijuana for recreational use in New York State.

The governor proposed the Department of Health study the effects that legalizing the drug would have on the state’s health, economy and criminal justice system. The study would also look at the impacts of marijuana being legalized for recreational use in neighboring states; Massachusetts legalized marijuana in 2016, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on legalization, saying it could net $300 million in revenue for the state. 

“If it was legalized in Jersey and it was legal in Massachusetts and the federal government allowed it to go ahead, what would that do to New York, because it’s right in the middle? This is an important topic, it’s a hotly debated topic, pardon the pun, and it’d be nice to have the facts in the middle of the debate once in a while,” Cuomo said, according to 

The Department of Health runs the state’s current medical marijuana program, which came into existence when the Compassionate Care Act legalized medical marijuana in New York in 2014.

The department would work with state police and other agencies to study whether or not the drug should be legalized for recreational use. 

It took years for Cuomo to warm to medical marijuana in the state and his position on recreational marijuana was hazy as recently as last February. "It's a gateway drug,” Cuomo said, according to the NY Post. “There's two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana.”

The proposal for the study comes amid polls showing a solid majority of Americans support legalizing the drug for recreational use; 60 percent are in favor of legalization, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this month. New York is also dealing with a $4.4 billion budget deficit and taxing legal weed could help bring in funds.

Cuomo’s proposal comes days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to tighten federal oversight of the drug. Sessions' move allows federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules conflict with federal. Nevertheless, legalization has flourished at the state level. Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts and California all voted to make recreational marijuana use legal for adults in 2016. It is also legal in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Washington, D.C. Alaska and Maine gave Trump electoral votes in 2016.

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