Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget address next year could be smokin’.
Aides said Tuesday the governor will introduce a plan for legalizing recreational marijuana, possibly as part of his executive budget.
“The goal of this administration is to create a model program for regulated adult-use cannabis — and the best way to do that is to ensure our final proposal captures the views of everyday New Yorkers,” said Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens.
“That’s why Governor Cuomo launched 17 listening sessions in cities across the state to give every community in every corner of New York the opportunity to be heard. Now that the listening sessions have concluded, the working group has begun accessing and reviewing the feedback we received and we expect to introduce a formal comprehensive proposal early in the 2019 legislative session.”
A study released in May by city Comptroller Scott Stringer estimated that legalizing marijuana could create a $3.1 billion market in New York state.
Imposing excise taxes on weed — similar to levies on cigarettes and booze — could generate $436 million in new state tax revenues and $336 million in additional city tax revenue, the report said.
Some advocates want the new taxes dedicated to the MTA.
Another key issue that’s being discussed is whether to expunge the records of New Yorkers who were arrested for marijuana possession when they were young — a disproportionate number of them are black and Latino.
In August, the governor appointed a 20-member task force to draft legislation to regulate cannabis following a report by his Health Department that gave the green light to legalizing pot. The group has been holding hearings and soliciting opinions.
Numerous other issues also need to be addressed, including: How many outlets would be permitted to sell marijuana, and will be cannabis be sold in smokeable form?
Under the state’s current medical marijuana program, patients are prescribed pot in pill and ointment form.
One lawmaker long involved in marijuana legalization efforts said cannabis should be sold in smokeable form, with limitations.
“The law ought to allow smoking of cannabis, with rules similar to limits on where you can smoke tobacco — but not necessarily the same,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan).
“We probably wouldn’t allow smoking cannabis out in public, but might allow it in some establishments. The health questions about smoking cannabis are nothing like problems with tobacco, in part because no one would smoke a comparable quantity.”
But for now, Gottfried said he’s waiting to see what Cuomo proposes before commenting further.
The push for pot legalization is a reversal for Cuomo, who once dismissed weed as a “gateway drug.”
But earlier this year, he called for a study of legalization after neighboring Massachusetts legalized cannabis. Meanwhile, new New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is finalizing a proposed law to legalize weed in the Garden State.
The most recent New Jersey bill being debated calls for a 12 percent tax on pot sales — a standard 6.625 percent sales and a 5.375 marijuana tax. Murphy initially sought a 25 percent tax.
Law-and-order types said Cuomo and the Democrat-run Legislature are making a mistake. Legalizing weed was never a priority during GOP control of the state Senate — but the Democrats won the majority in the Novembers election and are more supportive.
“I guess it’s not a gateway drug anymore,” state Conservative Party chairman Mike Long said sarcastically.
“Legalization is going to ruin a lot of lives. People will become addicted and become involved in other drugs. Others will become impaired and end up in car accidents.”
Long added that pot will end up being illegally sold to minors, as is booze.
“It’s not a good path for the state of New York,” he said.
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