Cannabis legalisation in New York received the green light in March 2021, after outgoing Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that would allow greater access to medical cannabis and legalise recreational use. While New York initially rejoiced, the movement stalled under Cuomo.
His recent resignation has raised questions regarding whether the new governor, Kathy Hochul, will help to speed up or delay the rollout of legal cannabis sales.
Delay in Rollout of Legal Cannabis Industry
It’s no secret that the soon-to-depart Democrat Governor quietly opposed legalisation for years. He would only openly consider changes after former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon made a bid for the gubernatorial seat in 2018.
Back then, Nixon was polling well. She had made it known that the legalisation of weed would be a campaign priority. Nixon’s polling increased, forcing Cuomo‘s hand on the issue, leading him to include legalisation in his plans. With legalisation providing valuable tax dollars in other states, he decided to sign off on the bill in March 2021. But Cuomo then dragged his heels. He failed to prioritise it in his budget, and is yet to nominate an executive director for his Office of Cannabis Management. name delegates to the Cannabis Control Board.
Governor Cuomo had proposed the establishment of an “Office of Cannabis Management” to govern the new adult-use industry in addition to the existing medical and hemp industries. He proposed a healthy distribution of revenue gathered from taxes, but his plans had yet to bear fruit as of his resignation on August 10th. The bill would allow dispensaries to sell people over 21 three ounces of marijuana per person daily, increasing the one-ounce typical in other states across the nation. This stalled several times before eventually being signed into play in the early spring. Cuomo publicly estimated a revenue bump of an eventual $300 million annually, with the potential for between 30,000 and 60,000 new jobs, as a result giving even more reason for cheer in the Empire State.
Hope for Quick Change in New York Cannabis Law
With Cuomo clearing his desk as we speak, there is growing optimism that his successor will take decisive steps where her predecessor faltered.
In just over a week, New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul will fill Cuomo’s seat for the remaining 15 months of his term to become the first female Governor of New York in history – and this looks like great news for weed in NYC.
Hochul has openly embraced legalisation as a legitimate means of generating tax revenue and has made positive statements about the future of weed in New York in the recent past. Moving quickly to seat board members would get her tenure off to a winning start while filling the state’s purse with all those newly-created tax dollars and providing a legal, regulated cannabis market. Kathy Hochul has a chance to knock it out of the park on day one – but will she? Signs point to yes.
What Happens Next?
As recently as January of 2021, Hochul stated on the record that change to New York cannabis law is “long overdue”. Also indicating that the budget deficit was a key determining factor. In a pinned tweet, she said, “It’s time to finally legalise recreational marijuana and create an equitable adult-use cannabis program that generates much-needed revenue for New York.” In an interview with Cheddar.com, she elaborated, “We need the money. People who were reluctant before didn’t join us in promoting this. Now, all of a sudden, you’re saying, “Well, I guess because of COVID, with a $15 million budget deficit, we need to find money anywhere we can.”
Hochul also indicated a keenness to implement the social equity the bill would address.
She stated “We’ve had an unjust system for so long, so we’re really excited about getting this passed as part of the budget. Once we do, we’ll join the other states that are finally enlightened enough to realise that this should be legalised”. Hochul speaks more in business terms rather than with passion for the drug itself. But, can own this issue as of next week and give New York what it’s still waiting for.
Movement was slow under Cuomo, who was dogged by controversy and eventually scandal over the last year. With Kathy Hochul newly at the helm and that ever-widening budget deficit to deal with, New York cannabis law reform may be about to take the express lane.