New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in a widely anticipated speech on Monday that he would push to legalize adult-use cannabis within a matter of months, The New York Times reports.
The move is expected to generate some $1.7 billion in annual sales and, according to Cuomo, is representative of his administration’s efforts to “advance our justice agenda and particularly address the forms of injustice that for too long have unfairly targeted the African-American and minority communities.”
“The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else,” he said.
Shortly after Cuomo’s speech, the Drug Policy Alliance announced via press release:
“With Cuomo’s commitment and Democrats regaining control of the New York Senate and Assembly for the first time since 2010, the question is no longer should New York legalize marijuana, but what legalization will look like.”
“Governor Cuomo and the new Democratic majority have a golden opportunity to get legalization done the right way, right away,” said Kassandra Frederique, the DPA’s executive director for the state of New York.
The New York Health Department issued a report earlier this year that suggested the pros of cannabis legalization would outweigh the cons of ongoing prohibition. Since then, officials have further informed their decision via dozens of public listening sessions on the issue.
Gov. Cuomo only recently came around to the idea of legalizing. He openly opposed the state’s hyper-restrictive medical cannabis program when it was established in 2014 and he relied on the tired trope of demonizing cannabis as a “gateway drug” as recently as last year.
Some believe that Cuomo’s shift on the legalization issue was spurred by former opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primaries and celebrated “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon, who announced her brief candidacy on a platform of ending cannabis prohibition and fixing the New York City subway system.
There are currently 10 states — plus Washington D.C. — that have opted for ending cannabis prohibition and many of them are neighboring New England states.