Legal Marijuana Is Coming To New York

Legal Marijuana Is Coming To New York

According to the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), the Empire State is “very close” to legalizing marijuana. 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) echoed this sentiment on Monday, stating that lawmakers plan to advance the stand-alone legalization bill before passing the budget, which is due on April 1st. However, questions regarding traffic stops and driving while impaired currently have legislators deadlocked.

“We are extremely close. We have reached a little bit of an impasse right now, and it has to do with impaired driving.” State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

No One Wants To Arrest Unlawfully

Law enforcement agencies have expressed concerns that the classification of driving under the influence of cannabis as a traffic infraction would send the wrong message to the public and encourage New Yorkers to drive while intoxicated from marijuana use. The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York maintains that driving while on cannabis should remain a misdemeanor crime.

In its current form, roadside marijuana testing cannot determine how recently a driver may have used cannabis, adding an extra layer of difficulty in policing motorists who use marijuana.

Despite the impasse, Stewart-Cousins remains optimistic about the bill’s eventual passing, saying

“It’s a matter of when, not if.” 

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Originally, Gov. Cuomo included his own version of the legislation in his annual budget request, though it was omitted Monday in a Senate resolution. It seems state legislators would prefer to handle the marijuana issue outside of budget negotiations. 

New York’s Third Opportunity to Legalize Marijuana


This would be New York’s third chance at passing marijuana reform legislation—the last two failed attempts took place as part of Cuomo’s executive budget process. The governor made his eagerness to see legalization finally come to fruition clear with a football analogy, saying, “This is not about getting in the red zone anymore; we have to get over the goal line this time. We need the seven points.”

Past efforts from the governor to bring pot to New York have flopped largely due to disagreements within his own party regarding equity and revenue spending. While state lawmakers sought to spend large swaths of new tax revenue on supporting minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition, Gov. Cuomo’s previous plans allocated the majority of funds under state control.  

Gov. Cuomo isn’t the only one ready for recreational marijuana to hit the state. According to a recent survey conducted by Sienna College, New Yorkers overwhelmingly support legalizing cannabis for adult use. The poll found that 59% of those surveyed were in favor of legalization, while only a meager 33% were opposed. Last year, in the neighboring state of New Jersey, voters decisively cast ballots in favor of a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis, allowing lawmakers to set up the necessary regulatory systems for a recreational market.   

During his Monday press conference, Cuomo said, “I think this should’ve passed years ago. I think too many people have been imprisoned, incarcerated, and punished. Too many of those people are Black, Latino, and poor. It’s exaggerated the injustice of the justice system.”

New York City Bodega Owners Fight For Their Right To Sell Cannabis

New York City Bodega Owners Fight For Their Right To Sell Cannabis

Wouldn’t it be convenient to be able to buy all of your necessities like groceries, laundry detergent, beer, and cannabis from one store in just one stop on the way home from work? That may soon be a reality for the people of New York City.

Recreational cannabis is expected to be legalized in New York as early as this year, and the bodegas in New York City want a guarantee that they will be able to distribute the product when that happens. The United Bodegas of America held a press conference to make sure Governor Cuomo understands their intent.

Bodegas are the small, locally owned retail spaces, or convenience stores, selling any combination of beer, wine, cigarettes, lottery tickets, groceries, and other necessities in New York City neighborhoods. Bodegas first opened in the Hispanic communities of New York City during the 1940s. The concept expanded during the 1950s, and today there are 15,000 bodegas spread throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

Bodegas already have experience selling items that are highly regulated by the state, like alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and lottery tickets, so incorporating the sale of cannabis would be an easy transition, according to bodega owners.

“Right now we sell cigarettes, we sell beer – we are highly regulated. There is no reason why we cannot be included in the packaging, distribution, and sale of marijuana,” said Fernando Mateo, a representative of the United Bodegas of America.

From a social justice standpoint, the bodega representatives are also calling for Gov. Cuomo to take into account the racial disparity in marijuana arrests. “All this money should not go to white-owned businesses. It should not go to corporate America. It should be shared with the underdogs,” Mateo said at the press conference.

Under Gov. Cuomo’s proposal cannabis would be tracked from seed to sale, just like in other legal states, but the production and distribution of cannabis would require different licenses. This is expected to make it more difficult for one company to take over, leaving plenty of room for small businesses to succeed.

The New York state legislature is still considering the legalization proposal that Gov. Cuomo presented last month.

New York Governor Passes Emergency Medical Marijuana Program

New York Governor Passes Emergency Medical Marijuana Program

While it will be at least two months before the majority of New York medical marijuana patients have access to medicine, those who qualify as critically ill will now be able to receive it sooner. Governor Andrew Cuomo approved two bills establishing an “emergency medical marijuana” program in the Empire State. This program permits the Department of Health to accelerate the accessibility of medical cannabis products to the states’ critically ill patients.

Now, in cases where delaying the use of cannabis may pose serious health risks and patients suffering from progressive or degenerative conditions will be able to obtain to a state license granting them immediate access to medical marijuana before the state’s medical cannabis program officially launches in 2016. Governor Cuomo, included a statement with his signature approving the emergency program,

“I deeply sympathized with New Yorkers suffering from serious illness, and I appreciate that medical marijuana may alleviate their chronic pain and debilitating symptoms.”

The Health Department will now be permitted to register additional medical cannabis producers who may be able to provide products more quickly or “as soon as practicable.” The programs’ partial goal will be to give preference to those already operating in other legal states that may be able to provide medical cannabis products “in a more expeditious manner.”

While the approval of the emergency program is a great news for many, it is bittersweet for at least one New York family.  Sarah Newton and her husband lost their daughter Olivia, while waiting for the program to be implemented so that they could treat her with legal medical marijuana.

“We’re elated that this has passed and at the same time we’re heartbroken, we’re absolutely heartbroken,”

Newton said, explaining that she wishes action could have been taken sooner.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']