Cannabis Legalization in New York: the door is unlocked now

Cannabis Legalization in New York: the door is unlocked now

By Noah Potter, Esq., Hoban Law Group

In his 2018 State of the State address on January 16, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called upon state legislators to fund a study of the effect of cannabis legalization upon the state. Recognizing that Massachusetts has legalized cannabis and New Jersey may soon do so (without mentioning Canada to the north and recent legalization in Vermont to the east), Cuomo proposed that the Department of Health, working with the State Police, study the health and economic impacts of legalization on New York. Although he referred to the effects of legalization in neighboring states, the widespread media coverage interpreted his comments to refer to legalization in New York itself. (Legalization legislation has been introduced in both house of the legislature every year since 2013.)

In response, prompted by the well-known lack of transparency in New York government, the new New York Cannabis Bar Association immediately wrote to the Governor with demands for transparency in the proposed study, including an open and transparent process for the public to apply for membership in the commission that will conduct the study, open hearings with public testimony, real-time public access to the commission’s findings and the opportunity for comment and questioning.

Ultimately, it seems that a study will not go forward in the coming legislative year because the Republican-controlled Senate, a consistent opponent of cannabis law reform, refused to allocate funds for a study in its proposed budget.

The proposal to examine the effects of cannabis legalization – even if only in neighboring states – is a monumental step forward in a state that has been a backwater in progressive cannabis policy. Although Cuomo strongly supports the new industrial hemp program, he has long opposed legalization; the medical cannabis program of 2014 is one of the most regressive in the United States as result of his last-minute intervention. Therefore, his recognition that the State must begin a fact-based examination of legalization is an indication that the door to major change in cannabis policy is unlocked even if it’s not open yet.

Noah Potter has over 20 years of experience and relationships in the drug policy reform sector. He handles a wide range of commercial and civil matters, including corporate control disputes involving oppression of minority equity owners, commercial torts such as fraud and fraudulent conveyance, property easement disputes, commercial real estate foreclosure, and non-competition agreements. He can be reached at: noah@hoban.law