Gov. Cuomo of New York recently ran for re-election against a challenger who advocated for legalization and expungement. In response, Cuomo promised to heed the report on New York’s marijuana policy being prepared by the Department of Health.

That report, issued in July 2018, has this conclusion:

The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts. 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.

The report addresses the social justice issue of marijuana enforcement, saying: “over-prosecution of marijuana has significant negative economic, health, and safety impacts that have disproportionately affected low-income communities of color.” Legalization will help decrease the number of prisoners and people with criminal records. The report says: “Statewide, New York’s marijuana arrest rate of 535 arrests per 100,000 people was the highest of any state in 2010 and double the national average. That year, there were 103,698 marijuana-possession arrests in NYS–29,000 more than Texas, the state with the next highest total.”

Arrests for marijuana possession have affected people of color much more than whites in the state. The report says that “NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services data demonstrate that 86 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in the fifth degree in 2017 were people of color; 48 percent were Black, and 38 percent were Hispanic. Only nine percent were White.” White arrestees were also much more likely to have their cases dismissed.

Legalization would help end this problem. The report also notes the “substantial tax revenue” that would result from legalization. Further, a legal market would allow for “quality control and consumer protection.” The report also makes many references to Colorado’s legalization program, citing the number of jobs created, the tax revenue generated, and surveys showing that legalization has brought a decrease in use among those under 18.

For all these reasons, the governor’s office has indicated that it will work with the legislature to pass a legalization bill in 2019. “The goal of this administration is to create a model program for regulated adult-use marijuana,” a spokesperson said.

Green New Deal

On some social media posts, the expanding legalization of adult use is being referred to as the Green New Deal. The same term, however, is also being used in reference to proposed new laws that revisit the expansion of social welfare programs under the original New Deal of the 1930s, and to laws and policies to reduce global warming and environmental destruction. The term’s meaning may now be said to include all of these goals. For many voters in the United States, raising the minimum wage, increasing taxes on the rich, increasing social welfare (such as Medicare for all), lowering the defense budget, regulating guns, and ending the war on drugs are policy goals that are tied together.

The 2019 legislative session may show results on these goals, as the 2018 election heavily favored Democrats, many of whom at least partially support these Green New Deal measures. Since full legalization has become reality on the West Coast and in Colorado, several East Coast states have pursued or will be pursuing legalization that includes some form of redress for the disparate enforcement of cannabis laws. Legalization is also becoming a reality in the Midwest, and the U.S. Congress has included legalization of hemp in the yearly farm bill. Across the country, legalization is on the legislative agenda for 2019.

What do you think? Will adult use become legal in New York by 2020? Leave a comment below.

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