It has been an action-packed summer in New York as far as efforts to change marijuana laws go. And all signs point to the imminent legalization of cannabis for adult use. Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed a panel to draft a legalization bill after a multi-agency study he ordered earlier this year recommended New York pursue legalization. Likewise seeking input on the matter, the state Assembly announced today a series of four public hearings on legalizing cannabis. The hearings will take place this fall.
New York Legislators Want to Hear from the Public on Legalization
State Assembly members Joseph Lentol, Richard Gottfried, Linda B. Rosenthal and Crystal Peoples-Stokes, all Democrats, have planned four public hearings for this fall. The hearings will seek public input on a bill to regulate and tax adult marijuana use. And while the Assembly wants to hear from cannabis industry experts and those with experience in neighboring adult-use states, it’s also welcoming input from voters and the wider public. Marijuana legalization is a popular position among New Yorkers. One poll puts support at 63 percent.
The fall hearing schedule comes on the heels of an earlier and well-attended Assembly hearing on the same issue. Crystal Peoples-Stokes has already sponsored an Assembly bill (A03506-B) to establish a “marihuana regulation and taxation act” [sic] in New York. A companion bill was introduced in the state Senate at the same time. Progress on those bills has been slow, but New York has made major strides reforming its marijuana policies. At the same time, the state is investing time and resources into studying how legalization will impact New Yorkers and learning from its neighbors who’ve taken the lead.
On Track For Legalization in New York
Regional pressure, political pressure, and economic pressure are all doing their part to push New York toward adult-use legalization. Not to mention the studies and commissions that continue to conclude that legal cannabis will benefit the state, pose few risks and reduce harm overall.
New York officials have already acknowledged the dramatic racial disparities of marijuana enforcement. That’s why New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio ordered the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking weed (93 percent of whom have been people of color this year, according to one watch group), and why Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance announced an end to marijuana possession and use prosecutions.
New York officials have already acknowledged the health, healing and therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis. That’s why the state Health Department expanded the list of qualifying conditions this year, including adding opioid replacement treatments. And why the Health Department‘s final assessment of marijuana legalization concluded that the positive effects outweigh the potential negative impacts.
Under increasing pressure from progressive candidates with progressive cannabis agendas, like gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, more and more politicians in New York are heeding their constituents who want legal marijuana. At the Assembly’s four hearings this fall, they’ll have another chance to make their voices heard.