Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his intent to legalize marijuana in New York

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his desire on Wednesday to legalize marijuana in New York in 2021.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to move forward with marijuana legalization in New York during the state's 2021 legislative session, the governor announced in his daily press briefing on Wednesday.
  • The governor of New York said that the state is currently operating with a $15 billion deficit brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Legalizing marijuana is one way the state government intends to bring in additional tax revenue.
  • "Too many people have been imprisoned, incarcerated, and punished," Cuomo said. "Too many of those people are Black, Latino, and poor. It's exaggerated the injustice of the justice system."
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his desire to legalize marijuana in the state during his daily press briefing on Wednesday, citing a need to raise state revenue amidst a multi-billion dollar state deficit.

"I think this should've been passed years ago," Cuomo said. "I think too many people have been imprisoned, incarcerated, and punished," Cuomo said. "Too many of those people are Black, Latino, and poor. It's exaggerated the injustice of the justice system."

On Tuesday, 19 New York lawmakers filed a marijuana legislation bill for the 2021 legislative session. According to Marijuana Moment, a cannabis news publication, the bill is identical to one State Sen. Liz Krueger filed in 2020. 

"It is long past time for New York State to catch up with our neighbors and legalize, tax, and regulate adult-use marijuana," Krueger told Marijuana Moment. "To my mind the most compelling reason for doing so has always been to end the unnecessary and destructive impact of the so-called 'War on Drugs' on communities of color."

During his press briefing, Cuomo said New York currently has a $15 billion deficit, the largest in the history of the state, which was primarily brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and federal bias against the state of New York.

In an effort to counter this, he noted that the state needed to do its part to raise revenue.

"This is the year we do need the funding and a lot of New Yorkers are struggling, so I think this year will give us the momentum to get it over the goal line," Cuomo said.

Robert Mujica, New York's Director of Budget, said the state's marijuana proposal would bring in massive amounts of tax revenue but would take years to fully implement.

"By the time it's fully effective under our proposal," Mujica said, "you'll get around $300 million per year."

Following the November 2020 election, Democrats in the New York Senate gained a supermajority, more than enough seats to overturn any veto from the governor.  Additionally, the general election saw four states vote in favor of legalizing cannabis: Arizona, South Dakota, Montana, and New Jersey - New York's neighboring state.

Directly following New Jersey's legalization vote, Cuomo said that the upcoming 2021 legislative session would be a promising time for marijuana legalization.

"I think this year it is ripe, because the state is going to be desperate for funding, even with Biden, even with stimulus, even with everything else, we're still going to be desperate for funding - and it's also the right policy," Cuomo said in November 2020.

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