Governor Cuomo Moves Forward on Legalizing Marijuana for Adult Use in New York State

Press Release August 2, 2018
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384


Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his position endorsing marijuana legalization in New York.


This is an important step for Governor Cuomo to recognize the Department of Health report and move New York forward to end prohibition that has been so devastating to individuals and communities. However, it is crucial that the work group include people who are directly affected and public defenders as well as community-based organizations who are on the front lines.


The New York State Department of Health recently released an impact assessment of marijuana legalization. The report concludes that the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana far outweighs any potential negative consequences. The study was commissioned by Governor Cuomo and announced in his address on the executive budget proposal.


Below is a statement from Chris Alexander, Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.


“We are pleased that the Governor has studied the existing evidence and data presented in the Department of Health report and accurately concluded that legalizing marijuana for adult use is the right choice for New York. Marijuana prohibition has devastated our communities, saddled hundreds of thousands with criminal records, acted as an easily accessible tool for racially biased policing, and stunted the opportunities for entire generations of mostly New Yorker’s of color.


We are hopeful that as the Governor and the Legislature move forward with marijuana policy reform that they recognize that any movement to legalize marijuana must also include broad record clearing provisions, must create a diverse and inclusive industry, and guarantee significant community reinvestment to repair the harm that has been done. We look forward to engaging with the Governor’s office and the Legislature on the ways to advance reform in New York.”


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Momentum for marijuana reform is building steadily in New York. A poll of New York voters released in late 2017 showed that 62% of New Yorkers support making marijuana use legal in New York for adults over 21, and more than 60% support taxing and regulating marijuana as a way to address the state’s looming budget deficit.


Legalizing marijuana for adult use in New York holds significant criminal justice reform potential. Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which is currently pending in the legislature, people who have been convicted of low-level possession (including possession in public view) and low-level sale can have that offense vacated from their record. Other offenses related to possession or sale that were previously misdemeanors or felonies can be reclassified and sealed. People currently incarcerated for such offenses would either be released or have their sentence appropriately reduced pursuant to the new statute.


This is crucial because marijuana prohibition enforcement has devastated communities across New York State, primarily those of color and low-income communities. More than 800,000 people have been arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York State over the past 20 years, with over 700,000 arrests by the NYPD alone. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people must contend with criminal records that yield significant collateral consequences for them—and their families, including limited access to housing, employment, and education opportunities.


Legalizing and regulating marijuana will also provide an opportunity, due to the revenue it will generate, for the communities that have been most devastated to start to repair the harms of the drug war. The potential tax revenue for New York from a legal marijuana market is considerable: An official study by the NYC Comptroller in 2018 estimated potential tax revenue for a legal marijuana market in New York State would be more than $1.3 billion annually.



A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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