On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo added marijuana legalization in his 2020 budget proposal, which sets the state on another push for legalization as the 2020 legislative sessions begin. This comes after a recent survey showed that support for recreational marijuana legalization is at its highest ever in the state.
Last year, Cuomo had included a similar proposal in his agenda but later dropped it after realizing that the lawmakers could not arrive at a mutual agreement about specific issues of legalization before the legislative deadline. However, his administration is positive that this year will be different.
According to the Governor’s new proposal, it is projected that New York will be able to generate $20 million in tax revenue in the 2021 financial year and $63 million in 2022. He also projected that by 2025, the tax revenue is expected to increase by up to $188 million.
During his speech, Cuomo urged lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana through the budget since he believes that the budget will allow making tough decisions and working through challenging issues which could be harder to agree upon if budgetary issues aren’t at the forefront.
The budget also calls for personnel increases at certain agencies to support the new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) as well as strengthening resources at the Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control.
According to the proposal, the OCM will oversee the nation’s first comprehensive marijuana regulatory framework, which merges all the licensing, enforcement, and economic development functions in one agency. OCM will also be responsible for licensing, production, and distribution of marijuana products in the recreational, industrial, and medical marijuana markets.
Hemp regulators within the state would also benefit from the budget proposal because Cuomo allocates $1.1 million for resources to support the additional hemp oversight and inspection employees.
Cuomo started to embrace marijuana legalization at the end of 2018 as previously he believed that marijuana acted as a gateway drug. Since then, he has helped develop a plan for coordinated marijuana legalization through several meetings with the governors in the region.
In 2019, the governor signed legislation decriminalizing marijuana and the expungement of prior marijuana convictions.
During his State of the State address at the beginning of the month, Gov. Cuomo recapped his commitment to marijuana legalization in New York. He also said that the economic benefit of marijuana would be a hollow victory if social equity and restorative justice provisions were not included in the legal cannabis system.
According to the budget proposal, marijuana business applicants under the social and economic equity program would be given technical assistance, training, loans, and mentorship.
The tax revenue collected from marijuana sales would be used to cover implementation costs, traffic safety efforts, and the social equity program. It would also be used in curbing substance abuse, harm reduction, and treatment and prevention programs.
He plans to allow home cultivation of medical marijuana of a maximum of four plants per household but no such liberty is permitted for recreational consumers.
A recent poll showed that 58% of New Yorkers are in favor of adult-use marijuana legalization. For industry analysts, that number makes the push for legalization too close to call and they think industry players like ChineseInvestors.com Inc. (OTCQB: CIIX) will be anxious to see what progress is made towards resolving the bones of contention that torpedoed legalization efforts last year.
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