Marijuana legalization appears to be sweeping across the Northeastern part of the United States. Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and Maine have already legalized marijuana, and Vermont is poised to do the same. One chamber of New Hampshire’s legislature passed a marijuana legalization bill, and talks in Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have been gaining steam.
New York State has been slower to join the conversation. New York State is home to a very limited medical marijuana program, and for many activists, New York seems to be farther away from legalizing marijuana compared to surrounding states. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a solid push going on in New York, with a recent historic public meeting being held to discuss marijuana legalization in New York State.
But there seems to be some resistance to the idea among New York lawmakers, and New York’s Governor has not always been the most cannabis-friendly politician. That may change in the near future, with New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo calling yesterday for the creation of a marijuana legalization study, as featured in the Marijuana Moment newsletter. Per New York Law Journal:
Details on the study remain scarce, although the governor said the panel charged with conducting it would include representatives of state police to get the “facts” on marijuana legalization.
“New Jersey may legalize marijuana. Massachusetts already has. On the other hand, Attorney General Sessions says he’s going to end marijuana in every state. So you have the whole confluence of different information,” Cuomo said during his presentation to the Legislature. ”I think we should fund [the Department of Health] to do a study. Let them work with state police and other agencies. Look at the health impact and economic impact,” he said during his address.
“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 added.
Whenever law enforcement is involved with a marijuana legalization study, I get nervous. I have yet to see input from the law enforcement community in any state which was as sensible as the input from cannabis advocates and policy experts. Typically what law enforcement offers up is a doom and gloom scenario, with predictions that there will be a youth stoner apocalypse following marijuana legalization, along with mayhem on the roadways from a hypothetical stoned driver epidemic. Both of those claims are not backed up by history or math and are only meant to try to keep prohibition in place.
I will reserve judgment on this study, but I do hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a footdragging tactic. Vermont has proceeded forward with marijuana legalization even though a study commission has been simultaneously working on their findings (one of which is to create yet another study). I hope that Governor Cuomo is sincere in wanting to explore marijuana legalization in New York, and doesn’t just end up using the study as an excuse to punt on the issue.
If you hear a lot of ‘we cannot move forward on anything until the study is complete’ coupled with a lack of any details about the study’s progress, you will know that Cuomo is just playing politics and does not want to actually see marijuana legalized in New York State. Cuomo’s Republican challenger had the following to say about Cuomo’s proposed study:
Gov. Cuomo announced today he wants to fund a study of legal marijuana, just 24 hours after GOP challenger Joel Giambra called for full legalization.
Giambra today? “There’s no more need to study this. It’s time to be aggressive.” pic.twitter.com/Nn9fF9lpMz
— Danny Spewak (@DannySpewakWGRZ) January 17, 2018