Governor Cuomo has appointed a workgroup to draft legislation for a regulated adult-use marijuana program.
By Forum Staff
Last month, the findings of an exhaustive, multi-agency investigation supported legalizing marijuana for recreational use in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday appointed a workgroup to draft legislation for a regulated adult-use marijuana program for the Legislature to consider in the upcoming session based on those findings.
“The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts,” New York Health officials wrote in the “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” released on July 13. “Areas that may be a cause for concern can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations. Incorporating proper metrics and indicators will ensure rigorous and ongoing evaluation.”
In January, Cuomo directed the State Department of Health to conduct a study of a regulated marijuana program in New York to determine the health, economic, and criminal justice impacts of a regulated market and the consequences to the State resulting from legalization in surrounding states.
The report found that regulation of marijuana benefits public health by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana. The creation of a regulated marijuana program would enable the State to better control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity restrictions. Moreover, the investigation found that a regulated program would reduce racial disparities in criminalization and incarceration rates and recommended sealing the criminal records of individuals with prior low-level marijuana-related offenses. The report also specifically recommended the creation of a workgroup of subject matter experts to make recommendations to the State.
According to the administration, 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. The group will be tasked with engaging with the leadership of both the State Senate and the Assembly, as well as bill sponsors of medical and regulated marijuana legislation, advocates, and academic experts with experience from other states.
“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.”
Cuomo on Thursday noted that since 2012, he 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, he signed the Compassionate Care Act into law, establishing the State’s Medical Marijuana Program.