Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to legalize the commercial sale of recreational marijuana, and he has included a marijuana legalization bill in his annual budget proposal. Just two short years ago, Gov. Cuomo opposed marijuana legalization and (correctly) called marijuana a gateway drug. Now, the Governor—perhaps motivated by a desire to find new revenue sources or by a desire to remain popular in a Democratic Party that has lurched wildly to the left—has flip-flopped. Gov. Cuomo’s proposed Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act would legalize and tax the sale of marijuana to adults ages 21 and up.
In recent weeks, voices of opposition to the Governor’s pot proposal have grown louder. Law enforcement groups have argued that many police departments are not adequately equipped to detect drug-impaired-drivers. County health officials are concerned about the public health consequences of the proposal. The New York State Parent-Teacher Association takes the view that legalization will lead to increased marijuana use among children. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms shares these concerns and believes that the full legalization of marijuana is a very bad idea (to review our 10 reasons to oppose marijuana legalization, please click here).
On February 11, the Empire Center for Public Policy hosted a policy forum in Albany entitled “NY’s Cannabis Question: Debating Pros, Cons & Practicalities of Marijuana Legalization.” Former White House drug policy adviser Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, expressed concerns about the potential for more overall marijuana use, more drugged driving, and a continued black market in marijuana, along with big-picture concerns about inviting a predatory industry to earn a profit by enticing New Yorkers into addictive behavior. In a press conference, Sabet asserted that the State of Colorado—where marijuana is legal—now has “more pot shops [than] McDonald’s and Starbucks stores combined.” (To hear more from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, please sign up to attend Legislative Day 2019!)
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) has expressed doubt that there is sufficient time to develop a workable marijuana bill by the March 31 budget deadline. At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we believe that there is no such thing as a workable marijuana proposal. At the very least, lawmakers in Albany should insist that the marijuana bill be removed from the budget process and considered on a stand-alone basis.