New York governor presses again for legalizing recreational cannabis

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(This story has been updated to reflect the reintroduction of a legalization bill.)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he will push for the state to legalize a commercial recreational cannabis program that provides “equitable” licensing opportunities and “reflects national standards and emerging best practices.”

Cuomo’s renewed push to legalize adult use was expected, given a multibillion-dollar budget deficit and approval by voters in neighboring New Jersey voters in November to legalize a recreational marijuana market.

The governor’s statement came a day after a state senator reintroduced a bill in the Legislature to legalize recreational marijuana. The reintroduction of the bill was first reported by Law360.

New York likely would become the East Coast’s largest marijuana market over time, but New Jersey seems positioned to launch a market first – as soon as the third or fourth quarter of this year.

“This program will generate much-needed revenue, while allowing us to support those that have been most harmed by decades of failed cannabis prohibition,” Cuomo said in a news release and on social media.

The state is facing a reported $15 billion budget shortfall in the economic wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor’s release noted that a legal recreational market could generate more than $300 million in annual tax revenue when fully implemented.

Cuomo emphasized that the program would create an “equitable structure … by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.”

Experts are concerned, though, that New York’s restrictive medical marijuana market will make it more difficult to transition to adult use in terms of generating enough supply to meet pent-up demand for MMJ and recreational products.

New York has 10 vertically integrated MMJ licensees. Nine are multistate operators.

Cuomo is expected to provide more details about his recreational marijuana plan in his upcoming State of the State address later this month.