With no homegrow rights, watered-down-social equity provisions, and a complete disregard for criminal justice reform, New Yorkers need to send Gov. Cuomo back to the drawing board on cannabis legalization
This week, the governor of New Jersey raised the victory flag for recreational cannabis legalization in his state after being beaten and bloodied by the political warfare that went down – largely within his own party – in order to accomplish the mission that the voters tasked the government with when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of legal weed in November of 2020.
Jersey’s law is flawed, but the spotlight now put upon neighboring New York is sure to peer pressure Governor Cuomo to do what all the cool states are doing and rush to the right side of history when it comes to cannabis reform.
In November of 2020, Siena College in New York released a poll showing that 60% of registered voters in the state were in favor of adult-use recreational cannabis legalization, with 32% opposed. While that number appears to lag behind nationwide polling, it was an impressive leap in the right direction from when the same poll was conducted in February of 2020, and support clocked in at just 55% with 40% opposed.
The point being, an increasing number of voters want it, neighboring states are either already profiting from it or are about to, and the federal government might be doing the same soon.
So, all Governor Cuomo had to do was cite that voter mandate, point to the success of other states, and if he was smart, push some social equity and criminal justice/expungement aspects, then ride a wave of popularity into whatever political future he desired.
Instead, the embattled governor has fought against progressive cannabis reform demands for years and now, when cornered by the inevitability of that reform becoming reality, he is saying out loud that it’s only about the money as he expects cannabis to bail out The Big Apple.
CUOMO’S CANNABIS CASH CROP
Who are we kidding? Cannabis reform is all about the money for every governor, in every state. There is just something a little slimier about Gov. Cuomo.
In a state that made “Stop & Frisk” a household term nationwide, Cuomo’s calculated approach to cannabis reform is cold, shrewd, and woefully uninformed – the perfect recipe for a lackluster cannabis market which, it appears, is what is likely in store for New York.
Quite literally at the root of the problem with the proposed legislation in New York is the lack of rights for people to grow their own cannabis at home.
The stripping out of this fundamental plank in cannabis reform is a direct result of greed.
Greed by the governor’s office and greed by the monied interests like MedMen and others that have been lobbying for years to kill homegrow rights in New York and elsewhere.
From Gov. Cuomo’s perspective, every homegrown plant is one less source of tax revenue. The fact of the matter is, the number of people who would take advantage of those homegrowing rights is so small that their “lost” tax revenue would be a drop in the bucket compared to what licensed dispensaries would be raking in for the state.
The state and local taxes, and the penny-pinching means by which the state intends to collect them, would be pretty much par for the course, and even the lack of homegrow rights is not unheard of, but there seems to be ignorance or denial from the governor with regard to the racially imbalanced lazy law enforcement seen across the state where people of color make up 2/3rds of all cannabis arrests.
In New York City, Black people are arrested on cannabis charges 8x more often than White people, yet Cuomo’s original proposed legislation wanted to keep cannabis possession as a felony charge for anyone under the legal age of 21. His newly amended version softens that language, but only because cannabis and criminal justice reform advocates in the state lit him up for it.
NEWSFLASH: If people are still going to jail for weed, weed ain’t legal yet
Similarly, his newly amended bill sneakily tries to redefine the term “drug” in regard to DUIs as “any substance or combination of substances that impair, to any extent, physical or mental abilities.”
Does coffee count? Asking for a friend who is a straight-up ADDICT.
Cuomo’s form of legalization provides no protection for citizens from police if they try to play the “odor” card. Virtually everywhere else that cannabis gets taxed and regulated, cops are told that claiming to smell pot is no longer a form of reasonable cause or suspicion to go searching for real crimes. But nope, not in New York where cannabis will remain the gateway drug… to quasilegal search and seizure and more arrests!
Cuomo’s current proposal does not include automatic expungement for past cannabis crimes either and this is where advocates need to make their stand in New York since none of this is inked into law yet.
Not only should Cuomo’s plan include the most expedited and thorough expungement plan ever seen, he can, and should, be doing it right now!
Wow, what audacity it takes to pitch a program by only highlighting the potential tax revenue to be taken in by the state while people struggle right now in that same state, burdened by past petty crimes related to the same exact plant that is now deemed legally profitable.
There are non-profit groups with software designed specifically for this purpose that could clear hundreds of thousands of criminal records, erasing decades of unfair and unjust misdemeanors and felonies that continue to keep folks from receiving decent housing, employment, education, or hope.
Governor Andrew Cuomo could fix that, tomorrow, without breaking a sweat. It could be done by lunchtime. But he will not do it tomorrow, and by his own admission, he doesn’t plan to do it ever.
Just give him the money and the popularity of passing “legal weed”.
NY State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes was recently quoted saying, “There are a number of things that need to be fixed [in the governor’s proposal], and if they’re not fixed, then we’ll be here next year trying to do the same thing.”
Marijuana Moment reported this week that the state’s Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul told them that they expect further revisions to the governor’s plan, saying specifically, “much of it is going to be negotiated with the legislature, and all these details can be resolved with their input as well.”
For the record, this marks the third straight year that Gov. Cuomo has promised cannabis legalization and included it in his budget proposal and we see how well that has gone so far.
Cannabis can fill their coffers with tax dollars. It can heal the sick and do no harm, it can unite voters and right past wrongs, and that still isn’t good enough for the people who were never down with it to begin with.