‘Wide divide’ might delay New York vote on recreational marijuana until 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s “no longer confident” an agreement to legalize recreational marijuana in New York will be included in the state budget that’s due by April 1, raising the possibility the state Legislature won’t approve retail sales of cannabis this year.

There are just too many details on legalization that must be agreed upon, the governor said.

“There is a wide divide on marijuana,” Cuomo said. “I believe ultimately we can get there. I believe we must get there. I don’t believe we get there in two weeks.”

Lawmakers could take up legalization in separate measures before they adjourn in June, though it could be more politically challenging for some to vote yes if the measure isn’t linked to the budget.

Rising concerns voiced by such groups as parent-teacher and law enforcement organizations over how retail sales will affect communities has legislators easing up on the gas pedal, Cuomo said.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie expressed similar doubts about the timeline in January, saying lawmakers shouldn’t rush the measure.

But there was more optimism in the Senate, also controlled by Democrats.

Supporters want lawmakers to act quickly to catch up to neighboring states such as Vermont and Massachusetts that have already legalized recreational marijuana.

– Associated Press

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4 comments on “‘Wide divide’ might delay New York vote on recreational marijuana until 2020
  1. Lawrence Goodwin on

    As an upstate New Yorker who’s been researching cannabis re-legalization for 19 years, I would strongly disagree with the conclusion in the first paragraph of this AP report: the notion that “…the state Legislature won’t approve retail sales of cannabis this year.”

    What’s clear is that no agreement will occur before April Fool’s Day. It would’ve been much too rushed if it were included the state budget process. Fine, let the lawmakers do it right. It is only fools who rush in. Key leaders of the NY Legislature support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, so the stars definitely are aligned for passage before June.

    The bigger story is how people of color are demanding that state officials create more equitable cannabis markets from the start, rather than continuing the process of approving caucasians exclusively for most licenses and business opportunities. See this article in today’s New York Times:

    As for opposition from New York’s 50+ upstate county sheriffs, they are justified in their concerns for public safety. But the bottom line is that their job is to enforce state laws, not make them. Indeed, the sheriffs, district attorneys and drug rehabbers should just stop meddling in cannabis politics and take a seat. Federal “marihuana” law is a scam and should’ve been ripped to shreds decades ago.

    • JC on

      Since most of the people of color are in and around NYC, I believe this will be a much bigger issue for the city than other regions of NY. As far as the upstate sheriffs and DAs, they only represent one segment of law enforcement. We have not heard anything from the State Police, City Police, PBA or other law enforcement groups. However, you’re right, it’s time for them to sit back and admit that their “war on drugs” was lost a long time ago. They should be concentrating their efforts on fentanyl, opioids and meth. Not having to deal with cannabis should free up more funds and energy to tackle those more serious issues. The problem is they can’t use cannabis as “probable cause” to search and seize other illegal drugs or contraband, which I think is an issue but not big enough to preclude the establishment of a regulated adult recreational market. Also, the public is on the side of legalization. Poll after poll shows public support for it.

  2. JC on

    It’s going to be hard to reconcile all of the competing associations and their respective lobbyists with regard to the NY 2019 Cannabis Law. Everyone will be looking for their piece of the pie. Pushing for approval by April 1 was certainly a Fool’s Errand. The Real Estate lobby will have their own agenda. How convenient will it be for the Real Estate Barons of NYC to fill their empty commercial storefronts with slick mj dispensaries or commercial grows in the Brooklyn Navy Yard or undeveloped piers and warehouses in Redhook. Will the law have favorable zoning for urban areas, special use permits? In many cities there are considerable setbacks from schools and churches. If NYC includes this kind of zoning, the law will automatically disqualify most properties in Manhattan and many in Brooklyn. The bodega owners and liquor lobby think they are owed the right to sell legal cannabis because they already work in a regulated market. Law enforcement, School lobbies will want their % of the tax money, while the already existing medical operators want to be able to convert their existing dispensaries to rec or at least be able to win auctions for rec licenses. Then, there is the lip service for making this a socially equitable process: quota systems and incubators for disabled, minorities, people of color, etc. to own businesses. So, if you’re a white, well educated guy with good financing, welcome to the bottom of the pile. If the existing groups: Columbia, iAnthus, Medmen, Verio, etc. all get rec licenses they will have first mover advantage. All 10 have 4 dispensaries each which means 40 dispensaries already have the potential to be in operation. There is certainly room for more but these 10 will have first mover advantage. Naturally, they are well-capitalized and are composed of the most privileged operators in society, closest to the trough of financing. Canopy will either acquire one of these groups or use their political influence throughout the state. As the law stands, no no entrant can vertically integrate like the medical groups. Anyone who owns a cultivation, processing, distribution cannot directly or indirectly own a dispensary. Conversely, any dispensary owner cannot directly or indirectly have any stake in a grower or processor. I think that growers/processors should be allowed at least one dispensary license. However, on the other hand, segregating dispensaries does allow for a more equitable playing field as it has the least amount of barriers to entry for more historically disadvantaged groups. What is the definition of a “microbusiness”. Is it like a microbrew where you have a limited grow/processing facility and sell and consume on the premises (like a microbrew with beer)? This would be welcomed for people who want to vertically integrate but not want to operate a vast capital intensive operation. If the CO legislature opens up their cannabis market to out of state investment you will see a lot of capital flowing into that state for consolidation, those groups, with their purchasing power, will target NY immediately. If municipalities pass their own zoning laws effectively “zoning out” cannabis businesses, what will the state due to demonstrate supremacy of the state law. NY is a strong “home rule” state so a town can effectively block anything it wants through legislative process. Anyway, lots to consider. My cynical sense is that downstate, as usual, will win at the expense of upstate. Then, of course, there is also the state’s decision to fold hemp (CBD and other non THC cannabinoids) into the same program which, I think, is a mistake and will make it very difficult for small to medium-sized hemp extractors and retailers to compete. Ahhh…don’t you love regulated, government controlled companies.

  3. Jim Piliero on

    1. I am a medical marijuana user , it is not a gateway drug , I turn down oxy, morphine , etc , on a regular basis and just want to be able to afford my medicine.
    2. To give the general public more access to my medicine , then to cancer patients etc is something I cannot understand .
    3. it is called the compassionate care act , someone tell Andrew we are preparing to march , you will see us in our wheelchairs ,canes ,bald heads and all if our medical program is not overhauled immediately.
    4. We deserve affordable clean access and cultivation to our medicine , please do not make us chain ourselves to your offices

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