As of December 2019, marijuana stands legalized in 11 US states plus Washington DC for recreational purposes and in 33 states for medicinal purposes. Out of five immediate neighbours that New York has, Vermont and Massachusetts belong to the former category while Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut to the latter. The impact of legalization in adjoining states has expedited the need for New York to address the issue. If things go as planned by New York’s Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the state will become only the 12th one in the US to legalize recreational pot.
How things currently stand:
In 2014, New York legalized medical marijuana, restricted to non-smokable weed. In June 2019, it decriminalized possession of small amounts–no more than 28 grams. Considering first and the second-time offense a violation rather than a crime, the law imposes a minor penalty and is unlikely to lead to prison. However, a person caught selling or growing weed would very likely receive a one year sentence and a fine of $1,000. The decriminalization move would exonerate about 500,000 people considered as offenders. Although illegal, a huge bootleg world of shady marijuana dealings thrives in the state.
Expected effects of legalization:
Legalization will immensely improve the quality of weed sold. State Senator Pete Harckham, believes that a legal market allows controlling the purity of the substance.
Contrary to popular perception, access of young people to marijuana decreases after legalization as licensed dispensaries replace back-alley drug peddlers, as stated in several studies.
The fact that Massachusetts earned about $400 million in a single year gives ground to expect a legal marijuana market to become a major source of revenue for New York. The state officials estimate a revenue collection of about $300 million per year. This includes the tax on homegrown weed.
Mr. Cuomo has always been vocal about his plans to legalize marijuana’s recreational usage. However, the legislation introduced by him in 2019 failed to win the trust of the lawmakers. Mr. Cuomo remains as resolute as ever.
In his 2020 State of the State address, he reiterated his ambitious plans for adult-use marijuana while keeping it within strict control. He proposes to create the Office of Cannabis Management to supervise various aspects of programs related to cannabis. He also intends to create a Global Cannabis and Hemp Center for Science, Research, and Education in association with expert partners. Efforts are underway to grant the burgeoning industry complete access to banking services.
In 2014, New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program came into existence after Mr. Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law, legalizing the medical use of marijuana to serve patients and improving the dispensing facility experience. The Program is now a national model, with almost 1700 registered providers and about 59,000 certified patients.
A 2018 study commissioned by Mr. Cuomo found that the positive effects of a regulated market in the state would outweigh the potential negative impacts that some lawmakers and a portion of the masses anticipate.
The state would also not want to lose out on a massive potential of tax revenue which is currently untapped and being exploited in the black market.
Most states in the US that have legalized marijuana have done it through a mass referendum, rather than as a legislative bill. New York has not been able to achieve a consensus either way. However, recent polls indicate that the sands are shifting gradually.
According to a survey conducted in September 2019 by Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans say it should be legal to use marijuana, with just 8% preferring to keep it illegal in all circumstances.
In the case of New York, a Siena College poll conducted in September 2019 revealed that 52% of respondents believe marijuana and alcohol are the same and should receive the same treatment. 36% think, after considering various social and economic impacts, that legalization would do good for the people of the state, 31% think it will be outright wrong, and 28% think there won’t be much of any real effect.
If recreational marijuana gets legalized in New York, you could soon find it from a company that offers lab testing & provide CBD goodies, enabling New Yorkers to grow marijuana freely and legally.
However, New York, which has a perception of being a progressive state, is strangely behind the times when dealing with the question of legalizing marijuana. It now has an opportunity to work in liaison with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to legalize what is already happening under-the-counter right now and minimize the damage. With Mr. Cuomo strongly backing the move, this is a real possibility, provided that the lawmakers could arrive at a consensus.