ALBANY – The process to legalize regulated adult use of marijuana in New York may be one small step closer as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed a workgroup to draft legislation for the legislature to consider in the upcoming session based on the findings of a multi-agency study he commissioned in January.
The study, led by the Department of Health, concluded that the positive impacts of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts, and that areas that may be a cause for concern can be addressed with more regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address people.
“I have reviewed the multi-agency report commissioned last January and have discussed its findings with Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker,” Cuomo said. “”The next steps must be taken thoughtfully and deliberately. As we work to implement the report’s recommendations through legislation, we must thoroughly consider all aspects of a regulated marijuana program, including its impact on public health, criminal justice and State revenue, and mitigate any potential risks associated with it. I thank the members of the workgroup for their time and expertise as we work to craft a model program.”
In January, Cuomo directed the DOH to conduct a study of a regulated marijuana program in New York State to determine the health, economic and criminal justice impacts of a regulated market and the consequences to New York State resulting from legalization in surrounding states. The DOH report, issued July 13, concluded that the positive impact of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative aspects.
The report found that regulation of marijuana benefits public health by enabling government oversight of production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sales. The creation of a regulated marijuana program would enable New York State to control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity rules. Also, the report found that a regulated program would reduce racial disparities in criminalization and incarceration rates and would allow sealing of criminal records of people with prior low-level marijuana-related offenses.
The workgroup will be overseen by Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David, who will work with members to provide them with information and support and coordinate among the Executive Branch and stakeholders. It will consist of individuals with specialized knowledge, including experts in public health, public safety and economics, and the leaders of relevant state agencies.
Further the workgroup will be tasked with engaging with the leadership of both the State Senate and the State Assembly, as well as bill sponsors of medical and regulated marijuana legislation advocates, and academic experts with experience from other states.
The regulated adult-use marijuana program will build on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to reducing the number of nonviolent individuals who become entangled in the criminal justice system and record of expanding access to medical marijuana. Since 2012, the Governor has twice proposed legislation to ensure that possession of a small amount of marijuana, whether public or private, is treated as a violation and not as a misdemeanor, but the legislature has failed to adopt the proposal. In 2014, Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law, establishing New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program. Since then, the Governor has continued to advance improvements to the program to better serve patients.