Get ready for Hurricane Mary Jane: legal cannabis in New York

Noah Potter

It is almost beyond doubt that the state will pass a law by summer fully legalizing the cannabis market. A working group appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will release draft legislation soon—possibly this month.

But no one is prepared for the wave that’s about to hit.

Start with this: New York City has the largest and most sophisticated cannabis market in the United States, yet the city government is not formally represented in the governor’s working group.

Second, city officials have never spoken with one voice about crucial details of cannabis regulation. Individual City Council members have endorsed legalization, but the council as a whole has not discussed the form of market control it wants. The city comptroller’s office has offered three proposals for legalization and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance two. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and others have endorsed it. But voices speaking in isolation won’t make this work.

Mayor Bill De Blasio, whose own task force on cannabis legalization released a report last month, wants progressive policies and extensive local autonomy on key elements of them, including regulating retailers, expunging cannabis convictions and prioritizing licenses for populations that suffered most from cannabis prohibition.

*Note: this article was accepted for publication before the legislation was released.