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New York Gov. Cuomo Reveals Social Equity Initiatives in Cannabis Legalization Proposal

January 18, 2021

With anticipation building about the potential to legalize cannabis by April 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled additional details about his New York cannabis legalization proposal, most notably plans that will seek to reinvest in communities most adversely impacted by the war on drugs. 

In Cuomo’s State of the State address last week, the Governor boasted that legal cannabis had the opportunity to reform the economy that was devastated by coronavirus all while promoting a socially equitable industry. 

Details of Upcoming New York Cannabis Social Equity Proposal 

With Governor Cuomo set to release his full proposal on Tuesday, January 19, The State of the State Book outlines that an Office of Cannabis Management will be tasked with regulating and implementing the new program while establishing national standards and best practices for other states to adopt. 

The Book also stated that it plans to correct past harms caused by the war on drugs not only by just expunging past convictions, which “fail to correct the lasting harms that arrest has had on citizens, families, and communities,” but also by reinvesting in areas that have been disproportionately affected. 

Cuomo Pivots on Use of Tax Dollars 

In past years, Governor Cuomo has pushed for revenue generated by the adult-use cannabis market to be placed in the state’s general fund rather than allocating the funds for community reinvestment. This pivot can be largely attributed to pressure from leading advocates of the marijuana industry, who have made social justice a priority. 

It remains to be seen how Cuomo will invest in communities that have been harmed by past prohibition and enforcement. In the past, legislators and activists have rejected his proposals. However, this year Cuomo will be pressured to act in the interests of the State Senate more than ever before, as Democrats secured a supermajority and could potentially override his veto privileges. 

Regardless of how it all shakes out, the State of the State Book predicts that New York cannabis legalization has the opportunity to create more than 60,000 new jobs, $3.5 billion in economic activity, and $300 million in tax revenue should the program be implemented in 2021. 

Contributed by Jack Berning