New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo is committed to legalizing recreational cannabis in 2020. Whether he will be able to finally push his plan over the finish line is still unclear. However, with New Jersey voters poised to approve legalization in November, the pressure is mounting.

State of the State Address

While Gov. Cuomo called for New York to legalize cannabis last year, legislation fizzled when lawmakers could not agree on how to allocate tax revenues. This summer, Gov. Cuomo renewed efforts by holding summits with the governors of neighboring states with the goal of working together on recreational cannabis policies. 

Most recently, Gov. Cuomo discussed cannabis legalization in his 2020 State of the State address. "This year, let's work with our neighbors in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, to coordinate a safe and fair system," he said. Gov. Cuomo’s plan calls for enacting a comprehensive regulatory structure to legalize adult-use cannabis, along with restorative justice initiatives. “Our economic growth would be a hollow victory if we did not continue our social progress,” he said. “For decades, communities of color were disproportionately affected by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws.”

Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis

Gov. Cuomo proposes a “comprehensive cannabis program to protect consumers, promote equity, and generate economic development by working with our neighbors New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to coordinate a safe and fair system,” according to a briefing book accompanying his 2020 State of the State address. In accordance with prior proposals, the sale of cannabis products would be restricted to adults 21 and over, and the state would establish stringent quality and safety controls, including oversight over the packaging, labeling, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products.

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal includes the creation of a new Office of Cannabis Management to specialize in cannabis regulation – overseeing the medical, adult-use and hemp programs. The briefing gives few other details about the regulatory structure. However, it does make it clear that any legalization plan will place a strong focus on social justice.

“The proposal will administer social equity licensing opportunities, develop an egalitarian adult-use market structure, and facilitate market entry through access to capital, technical assistance, and incubation of equity entrepreneurs,” the briefing book states. “The proposal will also correct past harms to individuals and communities that have disproportionally been impacted by prohibition.”

Once fully implemented, Gov. Cuomo projects that the legalization plan would create thousands of new jobs, spur millions in economic activity, and generate an estimated $300 million in tax revenue when fully implemented.

Creating a Cannabis Research Center

Gov. Cuomo is also proposing to establish the SUNY Global Cannabis Center for Science, Research and Education, which would study the risks and benefits of cannabis products, including CBD. “Until now, the cannabinoid industry has gone unregulated and unchecked, and there is a dearth of independent research on the science, the safety risks, and the dangers/benefits associated with its potential use,” the brief states. “With New York providing global leadership, this Center will approach this complex arena with the attention, sophistication, and granularity it deserves.”

According to the briefing book, the Center will initially focus on three pillars: toxicity, bioavailability, and dosing mechanisms. The goal is to determine healthy and safe dosing, as well as how cannabis interacts with prescription drugs. New York also plans to create an open-source database for drug interactions, accessible to anyone considering the use of cannabinoids. “This Center will position New York as a leader in safety, sustainability, production and knowledge in this burgeoning industry,” the briefing book states. 

We will continue to track the progress of New York’s cannabis legalization and provide updates. For businesses hoping to enter New York’s cannabis market, the competition will be intense, and it is never too soon to start preparing.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Dan McKillop, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-806-3364.

This article is a part of a series pertaining to cannabis legalization in New Jersey and the United States at large. Prior articles in this series are below:

Disclaimer: Possession, use, distribution, and/or sale of cannabis is a Federal crime and is subject to related Federal policy. Legal advice provided by Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC is designed to counsel clients regarding the validity, scope, meaning, and application of existing and/or proposed cannabis law. Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC will not provide assistance in circumventing Federal or state cannabis law or policy, and advice provided by our office should not be construed as such.