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New York Governor’s Pot Plan Under Fire

Cannabis advocates are pushing back on several aspects of Gov. Cuomo's latest legalization proposal.

Elsa Olofsson, Unsplash

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has again submitted a plan to tax and regulate marijuana in New York State. However, the recently released text of the governor’s proposal has some Cannabis advocates pushing back on a number of potential problems with the plan. 

While Cuomo has backed legalization in his budget proposal for the third straight year, the governor’s latest pot plan once again does not allow for home cultivation. Cuomo also banned recreational home grows in his previous proposals and was criticized when it was revealed that an association of New York-based Cannabis businesses asked him to outlaw personal cultivation.

A month before Cuomo announced his official plan in 2019, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association gave the governor a policy memo outlining the group’s thoughts on legalization. The memo included a chapter called “The Fallacy of Home Grow,” which argues against allowing personal cultivation.

While last year’s plan did allow for medicinal home grows, Cuomo’s current proposal makes any home cultivation illegal.

Cuomo’s latest plan also does not address delivery services or on-site consumption.

The proposal earmarks $100 million in tax revenue for social equity grants over four years, an amount that critics believe is inadequate. Additionally, jurisdictions with populations of 100,000 or more can opt out of the Cannabis industry by banning pot businesses in their area.

But perhaps the biggest point of contention for advocates reviewing Cuomo’s legalization plan revolves around increased criminalization for underage sales. The governor’s proposal would increase the punishment for selling Cannabis to anyone under 21. Currently, selling marijuana to someone underage is a misdemeanor. Under Cuomo’s new plan, such a sale would be a class D felony, punishable by up to two and a half years in prison.

Previous attempts to legalize in New York have fallen apart in the legislature over disagreements on how to spend potential tax revenue generated by Cannabis. But this year, lawmakers could be fighting over other aspects of legalization.

Cuomo isn’t the only New York politician pushing a legal pot proposal, as 

state legislators, led by Sen. Liz Krueger, have filed their own pot initiative. And unlike the governor’s plan, the senators’ proposal addresses personal cultivation. The bill would allow adults 21 and older to buy Cannabis and grow up to six plants.

Advocates are quick to point out that the Senate’s supermajority, which gives lawmakers the ability to override the governor’s veto, could help in negotiations over pot policy issues involving home cultivation, social equity and penalties for underage sales.

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