Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has made the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults a primary goal for the first 100 days of his new term. Cuomo, who was reelected in November’s midterm elections, announced his administration’s priorities for 2019 in a speech to the New York City Bar Association on Monday morning.
“We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma and let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo told the Manhattan meeting of attorneys that additional reform was also necessary.
“We have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and well off, and one for everyone else,” Cuomo said. “And that’s going to end.”
Cuomo added that injustice has “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities” and also called for the elimination of the cash bail system during Monday’s speech. Other priorities for the governor include improved transit funding, tax cuts for working families, efforts to reduce the state’s carbon footprint, and a tightening of gun restrictions.
Governor is Recent Convert to Legalization
Just last year, Cuomo characterized cannabis as a “gateway drug” and opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana. But this year, the governor commissioned the New York Department of Health to study the issue. In a report released in July, the department concluded that “taxing and regulating marijuana far outweighs any potential negative consequences.” The report recommended that the recreational use of cannabis be legalized for adults and projected state tax revenues of more than $1.3 billion per year.
Public opinion in the state also favors the legalization of recreational marijuana. In May, a poll found that 63 percent of New York voters support “allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”
The governor said in a radio interview on Friday that his goals for the new year will have a decidedly progressive theme, partly in response to the Trump administration’s first two years in office.
“This is a much different year given the assault of the federal government,” Cuomo said. “There’s no doubt that New York has to stand up for itself and we have to fight Washington and we have to protect ourselves and we need state laws that do that.”
Cuomo should see improved support for his legislative agenda with his new term. In addition to reelecting the governor, New York’s voters also sent Democratic majorities to both the state Senate and Assembly.