New York City

Cuomo is embarking on a multi-state weed tour

The long, strange trip will help the Gov. prepare cannabis legislation.

February 20, 2020 Mary Frost
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he plans to visit three or four states where weed is legal. AP photo by Richard Vogel
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to take an epic trip to visit three or four of the states that have legalized cannabis, he told reporters in New York City on Thursday.

This trip is not the fulfillment of the governor’s tenth grade bucket list, however. Rather, the journey is to help him prepare for similar legislation in the state’s budget this year.

Cuomo said that he’ll be bringing his team to Massachusetts, Illinois and California or Colorado, “to meet with them, discuss what they’ve done, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked.

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“Has the social equity piece worked? Has the law enforcement piece worked? So that we have the best bill and the best system when we pass it, and I want to pass it by April 1,” Cuomo said.

New York State doesn’t want to step on the toes of other states in the region that are also considering legalizing marijuana, the governor said. The state has been working out regional cannabis regulations with Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“You don’t want New York competing with New Jersey, you don’t want New York competing with Connecticut. You don’t want people driving to New Jersey, because they can get more in New Jersey, or a higher percentage in New Jersey, or they have a different age in New Jersey, or a lower tax rate. So, it’s regional coordination,” he explained.

At the same press conference, Cuomo announced proposed legislation that would ban the sale of flavored vaping products, including menthol, statewide, a measure passed by the New York City Council in November. The proposed package of laws would also ban the online sale of e-cigarettes in New York State.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement about his upcoming weed tour during a press conference about the state’s campaign to ban all flavored nicotine vaping products.
Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Investors, entrepreneurs, community leaders and elected officials are all looking into the opportunities offered by a “regulated cannabis market” in New York State. State Sen. Liz Krueger, the Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), received a standing ovation at the 2018 Cannabis Summit in Manhattan.

So far in the U.S., 11 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. While still illegal in New York, the possession of small amounts has been largely decriminalized, and its medical use is permitted in some circumstances. Yet even as marijuana arrests plummeted during the second half of 2019, black and Hispanic New Yorkers accounted for the lion’s share of arrests. Krueger and other legislators want a dedicated fund to help those who traditionally have suffered disproportionately under the criminalization of cannabis.

According to the New York City Depart of Health, a survey taken in 2015-2016 showed 16 percent of city residents reported using cannabis at least once that year. More men reported using pot than women — 19 percent vs. 13 percent. More white residents (24 percent) said they used marijuana than black (14 percent) or Hispanic (12 percent) residents.

Those aged 18 to 34 accounted for 61 percent of the users. In the city, 5 percent of emergency room visits in 2016 were related to marijuana use.

A 2017 NYC Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that adolescents in New York City used marijuana less often (16 percent) than kids living outside of the city in New York State (18 percent). Nationwide, roughly 19 percent of youth report using marijuana.

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