NY Marijuana Legalization Fails in State Budget, Cuomo Cites COVID-19

Marijuana Legalization

Gov. Andrew Cuomo giving the 2020 State of the State address to the New York Legislature. Photo Credit: Seth Wenig

Just hours before the midnight budget deadline, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that adult-use NY Marijuana Legalization will not be in the budget, claiming there’s “Too much, too little time.” Gov. Cuomo attributes the COVID-19 pandemic to not having the time required to pass NY Marijuana Legalization. “In truth, that is something that has to be talked through and worked through and the Legislature wasn’t here,” Gov. Cuomo suggested to reporters on March 31, 2020. 

Not mentioned in Gov. Cuomo’s address is Senator Liz Krueger’s (D, WF) Marijuana Taxation and Legalization Act, Senate Bill S1527B. S1527B aims at taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol, creating a specific plan for the tax revenues, and clearly outlining what is and isn’t legal marijuana use in the state of New York. 

Originally introduced in legislative sessions in 2013, S1527B has floated in and out of the Senate finance committee. Sen. Krueger believes that “marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that disproportionately affects communities of color and wastes valuable law enforcement resources.” 

One discrepancy with passing NY Marijuana Legalization in the state is the proposed allotment of the tax revenue that would generate from marijuana sales. Before the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget plan included using marijuana tax revenue to fund a variety of programs, including regulation costs, data gathering, boosting traffic-safety measures, substance-abuse programs, and a small-business development fund to benefit the State. Essentially, putting all of the tax revenue into the state’s general fund, and allocating it differently each year. 

On the other hand, Sen. Krueger’s proposed bill outlines specifically where tax revenues will go. The bill outlines funds to benefit communities in New York: the proposed New York state Cannabis Revenue Fund, the Proposed New York State Drug Treatment Public Education Fund, and the proposed New York State Community Grants Reinvestment Fund.