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Cuomo: Marijuana legalization in New York a top priority for 2019

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said legalizing the adult use of marijuana is one of his top legislative priorities for next year.

“We have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and well off, and one for everyone else,” Cuomo said on Monday morning. “And that’s going to end.”

“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana, once and for all,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo discussed his plans to legalize marijuana in a speech outlining his legislative agenda at the New York City Bar Association.

While it’s not yet clear what Cuomo’s proposal would look like in terms of business licenses, taxation, and how and where marijuana can be used, it represents a stark departure from his position last year: he called marijuana a ‘gateway drug’ as recently as February of 2017.

Cuomo’s shift may also reflect changing public opinion. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 63% of New Yorkers favor legalizing marijuana.

Cuomo’s move follows a report issued in July by a New York State Department of Health commission that elucidated the benefits of legalizing marijuana.

New York could be next.
Skye Gould/Business Insider

New York State Democrats have long sought to legalize marijuana. It’s more likely to pass now that the party has taken over the state’s legislature.

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released a report in May which estimated that the market for legal marijuana in New York could hit $3.1 billion, with $1.1 billion coming from New York City alone.

That would add up to $436 million in annual tax revenue for the state, according to Stringer’s analysis.

And as New York goes, so does the rest of the country, to some degree.

Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act into law in July of 2011. By June of 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all bans on same-sex marriage.

Cuomo’s agenda included other progressive measures, including a “Green New Deal” — a phrase lifted from New York City Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s campaign, as well as a pledge to end cash bail.

Incoming Illinois Governer J.B. Pritzker has also made legalizing marijuana a top priority. If both Illinois and New York legalize marijuana next year, that would mean the three largest and most economically powerful cities in the US — New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — would have legal access to marijuana.

Marijuana is legal for adult use in ten states, and 33 states have some form of legal access to marijuana for medical purposes.

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