New York Will Legalize Marijuana By April And Regulate CBD-Infused Drinks, Governor’s Advisor Says

Marijuana Legalization in Long Island NY

Published 2 months ago 

on October 19, 2020

By Kyle Jaeger

Legalization of Marijuana in Long Island NY
  • The top marijuana advisor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) says cannabis legalization legislation will again be introduced through the state budget in January, with the goal being to enact the reform by April. He also previewed state regulations for hemp-derived CBD products, including allowing infused drinks and food items.

During an interview with Canopy Growth Corp.’s David Culver on the company’s recently launched video series, “Under The Canopy,” Assistant Counsel Axel Bernabe talked about how efforts to legalize marijuana in surrounding states underscore the need for reform in New York. And he said the legislation the governor will be introducing will serve as a “model” for other states, prioritizing social equity and economic development, New York will legalize marijuana by April and regulate CBD infused drinks governors advisor says.

But he also recognized that neighboring New Jersey may beat the Empire State to the punch, as voters are positioned to approve a legalization referendum next month.

“We’re watching New Jersey closely. We’ve always been confident that we get to this before New Jersey, so if they pass the referendum they still have to have agreement between the governor the Senate over there,” he said, referring to necessary implementing legislation that will need to be approved if voters pass the ballot question. “We’re working on this. We’re going to reintroduce this in our budget in January. We think we can get it done by April 1.”

That said, a top New Jersey senator recently indicated that lawmakers in the Garden State could pass the enacting bill as soon as the first week of November.

Over in New York, Cuomo has included legalization in his budget proposal for the last two years, but negotiations have consistently stalled out in the legislature, with sticking points such as how cannabis tax revenue will be allocated preventing a deal from being reached.

If Jersey can beat us to it, then they’ll get the gold star—but I still think we’re going to set the model here.”

Bernabe said he’s especially excited about the public safety and economic development components of the administration’s forthcoming legalization proposal. And he spoke about the need to ensure social equity for communities historically targeted by the war on drugs, adding that there will be some changes from this year’s version in light of other states’ experiences.

“I would say equity pervades the entirety of the bill. It pervades it on the licensing front, it’s on the revenue side and the use of funds and providing capital and loans,” he said.

Also in the interview, Bernabe talked about pending regulations for hemp-derived cannabinoids. While those who grow the crop for fiber, seeds and other agricultural purposes are covered under existing rules, he said the administration is “literally putting the final tweaks” on policies for consumer CBD products that will take effect at the beginning of 2021.

“We’re excited because we’ve taken the bull by the horns so to speak. I think people recognize that there are a lot of sectors or product lines that haven’t really had some thorough regulation attached to them,” he said. “You can pick a number of them but probably the most high-profile or obvious ones are something like vapes—so CBD or other cannabinoid extract vapes. Flower, even some tinctures, and foods and beverages.”

“How do you regulate that? What are the parameters around it? What’s permissible? What’s not?” he said. “We dug deep. I don’t know that we’ll get everything right. We had to make some calls.

The administration official offered an example of a regulation they’re likely to pursue that other states have avoided: creating rules for cannabinoid-infused drinks and food items.

“We think of this in terms of consumer protection. Those products are already out there. There’s no sense in trying to pretend they’re not,” he said, adding that one way they’re planning to ensure those protections is to set a maximum 25 milligram CBD dose per serving.

“We’re really doing it across the board on this,” Bernabe said. “We’re really looking at every product class and trying to strike a balance between consumer protection and letting people have what they’re obviously using extensively for health and wellness.”

As the administration finalizes those rules, the state’s hemp industry also recently got some news about broader regulations. Since a congressional continuing rider signed by the president last month extends the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program for the crop until next September, the New York Agriculture Department said it will similarly allow hemp businesses to continue to operate under the existing program until September 30, 2021.

“With so much uncertainty right now, we applaud the department’s move to extend these rules,” Allan Gandelman, president of the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association, said in a press release on Wednesday.

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Marijuana & Covid-19 in New York

Legalizing Marijuana in NY

New York looked poised to legalize marijuana in 2020. Then COVID struck. What’s next?

This is part of a Syracuse University student-driven reporting project through the NewsHouse website that is being published in USA TODAY Network. It takes a deep look at marijuana issues in New York as the state’s drug laws remain in flux.

Count legal marijuana in New York among the victims of COVID-19, along with the hundreds of millions in tax dollars and thousands of jobs legalization might have generated.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on the last day of March that the state’s spring legislative session was “effectively over” after several state lawmakers tested positive for the coronavirus.

They came back in June to address COVID-related issues, but didn’t address other outstanding issues.

Among the unfinished items Cuomo said would have to wait until next year was the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use. Of the eight other states that were poised to legalize pot this year, only three appeared on track for legal weed in 2020.

Cuomo’s pronouncement of legalization’s demise was a turn of events given that, just a few weeks earlier, New York appeared all but certain to legalize marijuana as a way of raising revenue, lowering incarceration rates and getting a piece of a rapidly growing business sector.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Feb. 20, 2020, that he will visit states that have legalized marijuana to see what they are doing right and wrong.

Cuomo himself vowed to make legalization a priority during his State of the State address in January.

And although some opposition still remains in the state and a similar effort failed in 2019, people across New York expressed support for Cuomo’s plan.

In Januar,y, a Siena College survey of New York registered voters found that 58% supported legalization.

Meanwhile a less-scientific News House poll of more than 250 New York college students found that more than 91% favored legalization.

The NewsHouse also reached out to New York state lawmakers in March.

Of the 20 who responded, five were against legalization, one undecided and 14 were in favo, 

“It makes no sense to me that cannabis & alcohol are treated differently under the law when cannabis poses less health risks than alcohol, is less addictive and there is no empirical evidence suggesting that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ to other types of drug use,” said state Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, Ulster County.

How COVID-19 derailed legal marijuana in NY

Protesters urging legislators to pass Marijuana legislation lay on the floor outside the Assembly Chamber doors at the state Capitol Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in Albany, N.Y.

With so much support, what went wrong? The culprit appears to be the same thing upending life everywhere – the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, D-Bronx, has been a strident supporter of legalization. Yet he acknowledged that COVID-19 made a proper policy discussion about legalization impossible for now.

Eventually, he thinks marijuana will be legal for adult recreational use in New York. The corona virus may have slowed that effort, but it has also made it more certain than ever, he said.

“Ultimately, when the storm settles, we are going to have to deal with it one way or another,” Sepúlveda said.

“We are going to pass some form of legalization, and you know what, when you consider the incredible deficits that we are going to have as a result of corona, all revenue streams are going to have to be considered … including gambling, online gambling and things of that nature,” he added.

What college students say about NY’s legal weed odds

New York Harvest Festival and Freedom Fair organizer Rob Robinson is a CNY marijuana legalization activist interested in social justice and environmental reform.

Syracuse University policy studies freshman Lexi Whitcomb worries the opposite might be true. 

“It has been seen as an evil,” the Connecticut native said of marijuana. “And I know a lot of lawmakers are older. So if they have that traditional view about it, they might be still thinking about that and the effects of it being negative as a drug.” 

Whitcomb supports legalization and agrees with Sepúlveda that the economy will need a boost after COVID, as does freshman Allison Boschetti of New Jersey. Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.

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“Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is taking a huge toll on our economy, and the legalization of marijuana could help to build up our economy again,” said Boschetti, who studies public relations.

She added that it’s “foolish to delay this when legalization will inevitably happen.”

But more than economics, Boschetti supports legalization of Marijuana as a social justice issue, citing the toll the war on drugs has taken on urban and minority communities — an argument made by many lawmakers in support of the law.

Economics senior Luis Solano supports legalization but said it was a smart decision to delay in the light of the COVID outbreak so the state could focus on stopping the virus.

In his home state of California, Solano said having weed legal has been a benefit. 

“People are definitely less on edge about buying marijuana,” he said. He added that marijuana is “one less thing for law enforcement to worry about,” although he said regulation of driving under the influence is a problem. 

Assemblyman David Weprin, D-Queens, spoke at a rally in January 2020 at the state Capitol on the need to make sure revenue from marijuana sales goes back into communities of color.

New Yorker Dashawn Austin, a marketing and advertising student, said he supports legalization and is understanding of the delay. “I just don’t want it to slip through the cracks,” he added. 

But Austin thought legalization might affect campus culture, hoping that university police would worry about it less.

“I don’t think that marijuana should still be illegal,” said Haley Francois, a first-year accounting from Scotia, New York.

“So if a politician thought it should stay illegal, I wouldn’t vote for them.”

New York Gov. Cuomo says it’s ‘not likely’ recreational marijuana will be legalized in New York’s 2020 budget this year as the coronavirus outbreak is the focus in Albany

Hemp & Marijuana Tours in Long Island NY

Jeremy Berke Mar 31, 2020, 6:19 PM

Different Cannabis Strain Leafs - 
 Long Island Cannabis Tours

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that legalizing recreational marijuana likely won’t be included in the state’s budget, dealing a blow to the cannabis industry companies that have invested a significant amount of time, money, and resources preparing for the rush of the state’s millions of adult consumers into the legalized market.

Cuomo was asked by a reporter on Tuesday about marijuana legalization — one of the key initiatives he laid out in his budget address on January 21 — in his daily press briefing on the state’s coronavirus response.

“It’s not likely,” Cuomo said. “Too much, too little time.” 

The New York state budget is due on April 1. The state legislature must approve the package before midnight.

In normal times, the state budget is seen by lawmakers as a way to eschew the traditional, intensive process that bills must go through to become law by forcing key issues into the budget.

Last week, Cuomo said he was still intent on legalizing marijuana through the budget, but those priorities have shifted as confirmed cases of coronavirus and deaths mount in New York state. New York City has emerged as the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic in recent days, with one person dying as a result of the virus approximately every six minutes. 

New York exceeded 75,000 cases on Tuesday, with 1,550 deaths — up from 1,218 on Monday, Cuomo said. 

states where marijuana is legal - LI Cannabis Tours

New York state Democrats had tried to put adult-use cannabis legalization in last year’s budget, but negotiations broke down shortly before the deadline over how the tax revenue from marijuana sales would be spent. 

Many in the cannabis industry were hopeful New York would pass legalization this year. Legalizing adult-use cannabis  would provide a rare positive tailwind for an industry that has seen a wave of layoffs and executive turnover, and had the market caps of some of its most visible companies slashed by over 90% in recent months

Justin Flagg, the spokesperson for Sen. Liz Krueger, who, along with Rep. Crystal Peoples-Stokes, is one of the key voices on marijuana legalization in the New York state assembly, told Cannabis Wire the “plan B remains the same.”

“If it can’t get done in the budget in the middle of a public health crisis that is also a fiscal crisis, there is no reason the legislature can’t negotiate and pass a nation-leading legalization model when the immediate crisis is over,” Flagg said.

Cannabis is legal for adults over the age of 21 in 11 states, and a total of 33 states have some form of medical cannabis access on the books. 

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