Legalization stalls as COVID-19 upends 2020 legislative session
Last update: April 16, 2020
In January, for the second consecutive year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included marijuana legalization in his budget proposal to the legislature. On April 1, marijuana legislation was not included in New York’s final budget, likely ending its chances for passage in 2020.
As the novel coronavirus swept through New York, legislative priorities quickly shifted, making marijuana legislation a difficult issue to resolve before the budget deadline.
“Marijuana and the gig economy were two of the more complicated initiatives that we wanted to work through that we didn’t get a chance to do,” said Gov. Cuomo, when asked about initiatives that he hoped to see in the budget bill that passed in early April. He continued, “Is the session effectively over? It’s up to the legislature, but I think it’s fair to say it’s effectively over.”
In 2019, legalization fell short after lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on implementation. The Senate reportedly lacked the votes needed to pass the measure in an up-or-down vote.
Gov. Cuomo signs bill to improve decriminalization law
In 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed A08420/S06579 into law, which fixed the state’s decriminalization law and added automatic expungement for past convictions.
The bill reduces the penalty for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a $50 fine (from $100). It also closes the “public view” loophole that law enforcement has used as a pretext to arrest tens of thousands of New Yorkers and automatically erases old convictions for decriminalized conduct. You can read a summary of the law here.
PTSD added 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.