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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has once again vowed to legalize marijuana. During his recent State of the State address, the governor announced that he would finally make legal weed a part of life for New Yorkers once and for all in 2021.
Cuomo’s idea is to create a taxed and regulated market that would allow adults 21 and older to buy pot just like they do beer. So rather than waiting for the weed man to come around (late as usual), all you would have to do is walk down the street to your friendly neighborhood retail reefer slinger and get whatever you need. It’s a system that means smoke, edibles, drinks and other wild-eyed versions of the Devil’s lettuce would be widely available statewide.
It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, Governor Cuomo was dead set against legalization. He was part of the anti-drug troop that thought weed was a “gateway drug” that would lead to more Americans hookin’ for dime bags once they became savagely addicted. But then something miraculous happened to his mindset. A commission hired by the Cuomo administration found that legal marijuana would generate beaucoup bucks in state tax revenue and not turn the population into strung out stoners. They wouldn’t even have to tie-dye the flag, patchouli would still be optional and banks wouldn’t be required to close on Bob Marley’s birthday.
The commission did, however, find that marijuana legalization would put a stop to thousands of pointless pot-related arrests. That’s when the governor started thinking in terms of profiting from pot instead of trying to uphold the prohibition standard. In 2019, Cuomo signed legislation eliminating the criminal penalties for anyone caught in possession of cannabis in small amounts. The next step was full-blown legalization. But the legislative suits keep screwing the pooch.
It should be easy to legalize marijuana. All you have to do is stop busting people for pot, set up a tax system, start issuing licenses and let the industry come in and sell it. But none of the politicians in Albany can seem to agree on how the state’s taxed and regulated marijuana market should be designed. There have been arguments over tax revenue, reparations for communities bullied by decades of racially-biased marijuana enforcement, and setting up an industry that’s not ruled exclusively by rich white men. The disaccord surrounding the weed debate has been vast, which is largely responsible for sabotaging marijuana legalization over the years.
But Cuomo, who wants to legalize marijuana and online gambling to help save the state from financial ruins, told a radio show last November that legal weed would finally get done in 2021. “I think this year it is ripe because the state is going to be desperate for funding. Even with Biden, even with the stimulus, we’re still going to need funding,” he said. “I think we’re going to get there this year.”
To hedge his bet, Cuomo emerged last week with a marijuana legalization plan of his own. “I’m announcing a proposal to legalize cannabis and create an equitable adult-use cannabis program in NYS,” Cuomo announced in a Tweet. “This program will generate much-needed revenue, while allowing us to support those that have been most harmed by decades of failed cannabis prohibition.”
Cuomo’s plan to make New York the next green state stands a fair shot at going the distance. Although marijuana legalization has been met with opposition over the past two years, the 2020 election changed that. The Democrats, which favor legalizing marijuana, now have the supermajority, giving them veto power in both legislative houses. “It will also be the biggest Senate majority conference in the history of New York state,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
All of this political jibber-jabber means that whatever the Democrats decide to push through the legislative grind can no longer get jammed up. They can even override the governor if necessary. Although we could see more arguments arise this session concerning the overall design of the state’s recreational marijuana market, immense pressure to fix the budget deficit may stop everyone and their brother from nitpicking the details.
By allowing New Yorkers to get stoned legally, the state could rake in upwards of $300 million in annual tax revenue.