Discussion of taxing and regulating marijuana in New York picks up steam

Last update: January 9, 2019


The legislature convened on January 9 with legalizing marijuana on the agenda. Having evolved from his prior opposition in 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the legislature to legalize marijuana this year.

But, he can’t pass a bill alone. Please write your lawmakers to ask them to support taxing and regulating marijuana in New York.

Gov. Cuomo’s evolution came after he commissioned a study on the impact of marijuana legalization. The study, released in July 2018 by the Department of Health, ultimately recommended a regulated system be implemented in the state. Based on the findings of the study, Cuomo appointed a workgroup to draft legislation for a regulated adult-use marijuana program for the legislature to consider in the 2019 legislative session.

In late August 2018, Gov. Cuomo also announced a series of “listening sessions” conducted throughout the state to gather input on legalization from community members and stakeholders. Assembly committees held a total of 17 hearings across the state from September 5 through October 17, 2018.

Gov. Cuomo signs bill adding PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana


To mark Veterans Day, in November 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an MPP Foundation-backed bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. In addition, the Department of Health added chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions in 2017. MPP and our supporters urged that restrictions in the proposed rules be removed, and while the Department of Health declined to do so, it did clarify that patients need not try opioids prior to qualifying for medical cannabis.

Poll shows 62% of New York voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana


The poll, which is available here, was commissioned by MPP Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance and conducted by Emerson College in November 2017. A majority supported legalization across all party affiliations and age groups, except people aged 75 and older. Hopefully, lawmakers will soon catch up to their constituents and pass legislation to tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over. Click here to ask them to do so.

New York still has not fixed its decrim law 40 years later


New York was one of the first states in the nation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana — in 1977. Yet, 40 years later there is still a giant loophole in the law, which has caused thousands more arrests, and all of the collateral consequences that come with them. The “public view” exception to the decriminalization law has been widely abused by police officers, who order people, mostly young people of color, to empty their pockets and then arrest them for possessing marijuana in public view. Over 18,000 people were still arrested for marijuana possession in 2016, in New York City alone. Yet, these arrests have done nothing to stem the flow of marijuana, as New York has a very robust and sophisticated illicit cannabis market.

The legislature has considered various bills to fix this problem for several years, but they have not moved forward. A more comprehensive fix to New York’s unfair and wasteful marijuana laws would be to legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it like alcohol.

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