The idea of New York’s Governor Cuomo getting on the cannabis legalization train shouldn’t be too much of a surprise for anyone who’s followed his record on marijuana over the last several years, or who’s been watching the Democratic primary race for governor this year.
During his tenure as governor, Andrew Cuomo has slowly but steadily taken incremental steps toward legalizing cannabis. But now that he’s facing a serious challenger within his party, one who’s made full legalization a cornerstone of her campaign, Cuomo has taken the final leap onto the back of the recreational bandwagon.
Cuomo On Cannabis: “The Facts Have Changed”
During his tenure as governor, Cuomo has fought to decriminalize personal amounts of cannabis and established a medical marijuana program in New York. Yet he has always stopped short of supporting adult-use legalization.
Never on the leading edge of drug reform, Cuomo seems to react to the prevailing winds rather than adopt an ambitious policy. As a result, Cuomo’s actions on cannabis bear the marks of his conservatism on the issue.
Take, for example, the bill Cuomo signed in 2014 establishing a “comprehensive medical marijuana program” in New York. That program is still struggling to get off the ground, thanks to the law’s restrictiveness.
Not that pulling punches has helped the governor overcome Republican opposition to marijuana reform in the state legislature, either.
The governor failed in his 2012 attempt to decriminalize cannabis possession and didn’t revive the issue until 2017. Burying the decriminalization proposal on page 191 of a nearly 400-page compendium on his 2017 plans, Cuomo cited the “dramatic shift in public opinion” as reason enough for another go at it.
That was the same reasoning behind Cuomo’s January 2018 announcement that he was commissioning a study on regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use.