New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling for decriminalizing cannabis in his annual State of the State address, saying that “recreational users pose little to no threat to public safety” in the state, New York Upstate reports.
“The unnecessary arrest of these individuals can have devastating economic and social effects on their lives,” the Democratic governor’s office wrote in the 383-page book.
The proposal comes after voters in Massachusetts, a New York border state, legalized cannabis for adult-use during November’s general election.
According to the report, arresting and jailing low-level cannabis possession crimes cost the state $75 million in 2019; about 90 percent of those convicted had no felonies later.
New York does have a medical cannabis program; however, it is very tightly regulated – not permitting full-plant use and allowing just five licensed operators. Recently, the state Health Department did make changes in an effort to expand the program, including adding chronic pain to the qualifying conditions list, approving physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners to write medical cannabis recommendations for patients and lifting the number of brands sold by dispensaries.
Just because the governor is pushing for reforms does not mean the legislature will heed his call. A bill would need to be authored, introduced, and passed through both houses of the legislature before heading to Cuomo for his signature.