Support is building for recreational marijuana in New York in 2019.
Currently, as of November midterm elections, there are ten states in the U.S. which have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Michigan became the 10th state to join the green rush. Will New York legalize recreational weed in 2019? Amazingly, once just a pipe dream, New York is on the brink of legalizing recreational marijuana for all adults age 21+.
One thing is clear. Support has been growing among New Yorkers for some time. Today, nearly two-thirds of voters are in favor of legalizing marijuana. A Quinnipiac University survey from early 2018 showed that 63 percent of New Yorkers support allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Currently, marijuana is legal in bordering states such as Vermont and Massachusetts, where New York citizens 21+ can purchase weed legally (although bringing it back across the border is prohibited).
Vermont was the first state to legalize marijuana via a legislative action rather than a ballot initiative. And NYC neighbor New Jersey is on the verge of doing the same, as is Virginia. In fact, by the time you read this, recreational weed might already be legal in New Jersey. So, is New York next?
Laws prohibiting marijuana in the state have been completely unsuccessful in reducing cannabis use. With so many residents using marijuana regardless of these laws, millions of dollars are flowing out of state to growers and retailers in Vermont and Mass., or into the hands of illegal growers and dealers.
History of Legal Marijuana in NY
Earlier in 2018, New York Governor Cuomo, who was previously against legalizing marijuana, ordered a study to determine the health consequences and potential benefits of legalizing marijuana in the state. Around the same time, the Mayor of New York City ordered the police department to suspend arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The panel created by Cuomo to study the issue came back with positive recommendations. The report pointed to benefits such as reducing illegal sales, having better control over product quality (which in turn reduces health risks), revenue produced by taxing the production and sale of pot, and the ability to refocus law enforcement and public health resources on matters of greater consequences on public health and safety.
It didn’t take long for the legislature to pick up the ball and run with it. State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat from Buffalo, has proposed a comprehensive legalization bill. She expects the bill will receive attention as soon as the state legislature reconvenes in January of 2019. Furthermore, her hope is that a bill will be passed in 2019 in time to implement a statewide taxed and regulated market some time in 2020.
With widespread support for the idea among state lawmakers, advocates of legalization are optimistic that they will come to an agreement on the specifics such as taxes and regulations.
Only days before posting this report, members of the state Assembly gathered in Binghamton, New York for the third of four hearings on the issue. The event featured testimony from law enforcement, public health experts and people on both sides of the issue.
Adding to their optimistic, cannabis advocates were handed a nice gift on Election Day when Democrats took control of the state’s Senate.
Assuming marijuana legalization legislation is proposed in 2019 in New York, it won’t be the first time. Cannabis reform bills have been proposed by state lawmakers in the past. But this time passage actually looks quite plausible. It’s looking more and more like New York will, indeed, legalize recreational weed in 2019!