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Delays in New York’s Push to Legalize Recreational Adult Use of Marijuana

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Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “high” hopes to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in New York in conjunction with the state budget for 2020 has dissipated.  His state budget proposal for 2020 due April 1, 2019, will not likely include legalization, dampening the dreams of Cuomo’s estimated tax revenue of $300 million over three years flowing into the state from such legalization.  State legislators for and against the legalization will now have more time to express their opinions and the debate on the complicated issues surrounding legalization before the legislature adjourns in June.

New York will likely be influenced by New Jersey’s expected passage of an adult use bill, a vote that was scheduled for March 25, 2019, but was postponed.  Tax revenues are at the heart of legalization in both states.  Any law would have to authorize the collection of taxes in numerous ways and decide any apportionment to the municipalities where outlets are allowed.  Other complicated issues include how to license sellers of marijuana and who would be chosen, including showing deference to developing communities and those affected by convictions of marijuana crimes.

New York’s Democratic legislators are generally in favor of legalization and they hold the majority in both state houses.  Governor Cuomo, once firmly against legalization, is now enthusiastically in favor of legalization as seen in his state of the State Address where he proposed legalization within the first 100 days of this year.  While there is some opposition and a great deal of skepticism, the tide of support for legalization of adult use is flowing, but high tide of legalization is still many months away.

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