As 2020 gets up to full speed, it would appear the New Year has heralded a new approach from New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who has shed light on his view of cannabis legalisation in a recent public speech.
The divisive governor discussed
how 2020 will be a “challenging year” while stating that the legalisation of
cannabis could bring in $300 million in new tax revenue.
He suggested that much of the revenue
will be spent in the same way as Chicago by helping families and communities
that have been affected by “decade-long criminalisation of marijuana”.
New York state is the fourth most
populated state in the United States with more than 19 million people and 8.6
million people in New York City, making it potentially a high-profit region.
Cuomo also wants to create new safety
and quality controls to ensure hemp and CBD products are better regulated,
which has been a key topic across the state due to mislabelling and misinformation
being spread by producers.
Furthermore, he noted that the aim is
to create a SUNY Global Cannabis Centre to research and determine healthy doses
of cannabis before a new legislation is put in place.
“For decades, communities of colour
were disproportionately affected by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws,”
Mr Cuomo stated
in his annual State of the State address, according to a transcript of the
speech released by his office.
“Last year we righted that injustice
when we decriminalised possession.
“This year let’s work with our neighbours New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, to coordinate a safe and fair system and let’s legalise adult use of marijuana.”
However, the recent subject of lung
injuries due to vaping could put a dent in the attempt to bring the
legalisation of cannabis to New York, with many critics and anti-cannabis
groups claiming that the vape illnesses are of much higher importance than the
potential profits to be gained and that the issues further reinforce the risks
of cannabis, in particular cannabis use amongst young adults.
After the US Centres for Disease
Control and Prevention stated that vitamin E acetate, a cutting agent utilised
in cannabis vape cartridges, could have been partially responsible for the
recent vaping injuries, Mr Cuomo had no choice but to address concerns,
claiming that New York had “led the way” with a ban on problematic flavoured
vaping as well as restricting the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes.
Addressing the subject in his recent
speech, Cuomo said: “After all the millions of lives lost, big tobacco has come back to life in a
different wrapper. They are now in vaping products. We know well the danger of
nicotine addiction and we don’t yet know the dangers of vaping, but young
Americans are dying to find out.”
Despite the worries over harmful products entering the cannabis market, with public figures scrambling to put bans in place to ensure public health is prioritised, another topic has lawmakers frantically searching for new ways to generate profit, and that is New York states’ mounting budget gap.
Due to the extortionate rising cost of
Medicaid, New York state has found itself beginning 2020 with a $6.1
billion deficit in its budget, despite having stable
tax revenue income and a strong economy.
Medicaid is a federal program which
provides coverage for people with limited income dealing with the cost of
medical treatment in the US, in which the state pays for around half of the
costs amassed by the program.
More than six million people in New
York are now receiving Medicaid, which makes the program a costly $70 billion
scheme, just in this state. The high amount of citizens enrolled in the program
means that New York’s uninsured rate has recently reached the lowest point ever
with around 4.7 percent remaining uninsured.
Although widespread medical access is
an extremely beneficial situation for the people of New York, the budget gap
could continue to grow if nothing is done about it, potentially nearing levels
last seen in 2010 when, following an economic crash, a $10 billion hole in the
deficit was finally closed after painstaking cuts were made to health care,
education and private sectors.
Cuomo has been vocal on his long-held
belief of opposing raising taxes for wealthy New Yorkers, citing the
prospective fleeing that would happen as a result with high-income individuals
seeking to relocate to low-tax areas. Cuomo stated
last year: “I don’t believe raising taxes on the rich. That would be the worst
thing to do,” before adding: “God forbid if the rich leave.”
Due to the common perception that
democrats may lose their majority in the state if taxes were to be imposed on
the rich, other options must be considered to address the revenue deficit, and
cannabis taxation appears to be a hot topic in which the predicted profit gain
generated could ease the burden.
Following Chicago’s lead
Cuomo’s somewhat surprising stance on
cannabis comes just days after the state of Illinois legalised cannabis for
recreational use, with dispensaries in Chicago selling out within hours and
huge amounts of profits were generated in one day amounting
to around $3.2 million in legal sales.
Illinois’ legalisation also resulted
in around 800,000 people with criminal records related to small-scale cannabis
possession eventually having their records expunged, which is a topic that many
in the black community who have experienced the inequality of cannabis
prosecutions rightfully deem a high priority.
Despite New York decriminalising
cannabis last year, which aimed to provide those who had suffered under the
strict consequences of cannabis laws and received “draconian penalties”, many
in the state remain unsatisfied with the measures put forward as part of Cuomo’s
Speaking on the recent
decriminalisation efforts, Deputy Director of the New York Drug Policy
Alliance, Melissa Moore stated:
“This bill fails to address the collateral damages of prohibition, including
affected individuals’ access to employment and housing, as well as address
family separations, immigration rights, and other avenues to economic security.
“Given the extensive, life-changing
inequities created by discriminatory and draconian enforcement policies, true
justice requires the allocation of tax revenue to community reinvestment
programs for impacted communities.”
Following in Chicago’s lead would
allow for New York citizens unfairly discriminated by the harsh cannabis-related
criminal reprimands to rebuild their lives without the stigma of past
convictions that are now encouraged and profited from in surrounding states.