Regional Cannabis Regulation, Vaping Summit

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, second from left, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, second from right, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, far right, at the Regional Cannabis Regulation and Vaping Summit. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

By Angela Underwood

The Regional Cannabis Regulation and Vaping Summit co-hosted by a group of East Coast governors made one thing clear; they are all committed to legalizing cannabis and regulating vaping.   

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf met Thursday in order to discuss recreational marijuana and vaping issues. After the summit, Gov. Lamont fielded questions from reporters in a private conference, saying the leaders talked about things they could do better together than apart.

Governors Cuomo and Lamont talk about Regional Cannabis Regulation
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Right), Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont Left

“We came up with a preliminary set of rules and regs,” Lamont said of what prompted the need for the governors to come together. “We were able to talk about this in a really comprehensive way. We talked about cannabis and vaping from the point of view of public health, public safety, taxation, and regulation.”

Cuomo said in a press release on his website: “This issue is complicated, controversial and consequential. It is probably one of the most challenging I’ve had to address in New York, and it’s a challenge for all the states.”

Lamont said the opportunity to have an open discussion with other state leaders was necessary, so that they wouldn’t be competing with one another, if and when legislation is passed.

“If Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and we coordinate our polices there rather than being an outlier, it is something (legalizing marijuana) I would do in a very carefully regulated way with public health and safety paramount,” Lamont said.

He said the meeting was an icebreaker of sorts.

“I think perhaps our ulterior motive was to have all of our respective teams get a chance to get to know each other while working on this particular issue going forward,” Lamont said.

He added that representatives from Colorado and Massachusetts, two states that already have legalized marijuana, attended the summit to offer insight into the obstacles they faced, one of which was on the subject of vaping.

The Connecticut governor explained the representative from Colorado, which has regulated vaping for at least the past year, said the lung injuries and health effects are eight times worse in Utah than they are in terms of incidents in Colorado, where it is carefully regulated.

New Jersey Gov. Murphy was quoted on Cuomo’s website saying that collaboration between the states was going to be key.

“Together, we can ensure that these challenges are met with thoughtful, comprehensive action for those who live and work in our region,” Murphy said.

When asked why media was excluded from the summit, Lamont said they were not allowed to be present during legal cannabis and vaping legislation and policy talks.

“I have a feeling it was very important to the governor (Cuomo) to think out loud and explore as we try and work our way through something a little new as far as regulation for us,” he said.

When pressed as to whether a pending election year could play a role in delaying legislation, Lamont stated, “It doesn’t factor into my opinion, but it may factor into 151 state reps. Look, there is no need to rush into this, it is more important to get it right.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf was quoted saying on Cuomo’s website that it’s important to have the discussion in the open so that proper regulations can be reached.

“When we establish a marketplace for cannabis, social justice and empowerment initiatives must be considered,” Wolf said. “The discussion today with my fellow governors resulted in meaningful agreements and can open the door for passage of sensible reforms.”

Lamont said that there was really a sense that there was more work to do.

“One thing I can tell you about Gov. Cuomo, he is a man of action; he works in New York time,” Lamont said. “I told him let’s get together in a few weeks and talk about this and he said, ‘I will see you next Thursday,’ so I think he in particular is going to keep this thing moving.”