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Gov. Cuomo is again pushing to get recreational marijuana legalized in New York — as the state faces a budget crunch made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The renewed effort is estimated to generate more than $300 million a year in tax revenue and was announced Wednesday alongside Cuomo’s support for legalizing sports betting.
“I think this should’ve been passed years ago,” Cuomo said of greenlighting marijuana at a press briefing.
The governor, whose proposal will be central to his State of the State address on Monday, wants to create a new Office of Cannabis Management which would oversee the adult-use program and the state’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs.
His renewed effort comes after New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of recreational pot in November. Details of the soon-to-be-law in the Garden State are still being hammered out by the state Legislature before it heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.
Cuomo acknowledged that drug laws have long disproportionately affected communities of color.
“I think too many people have been imprisoned, incarcerated and punished,” he said. “It’s exaggerated the injustice of the justice system.”
Cuomo’s proposal includes licensing opportunities for those affected communities.
His two attempts to fully legalize weed in 2019 and last year fell short despite Democrats earning control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2018.
Democrats, however, won a veto-proof supermajority in November — which may be crucial to Cuomo’s push.
“This is a year where we do need the funding and a lot of New Yorkers are struggling. I think this year will give us the momentum to get it over the goal line,” Cuomo added.
State budget director Robert Mujica said the expected revenue from legal weed would take “several years.”
Low-level possession of marijuana was decriminalized in New York in 2019 in a move that also expunged certain marijuana convictions.
If legalized in New York, adults 21 and older would be allowed to use cannabis.
Multiple states have already legalized recreational weed, though amounts vary. New Jersey has the highest threshold in the country, OKing possession of up to 6 ounces.
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