Towns Opt Out for Cannabis Sales

Cannabis Opt Out for Towns in NY - LI Cannabis Tours

New York’s Long Island opts out of marijuana retail, limiting options for store operators

Towns & County's Opt Out of Cannabis Sales - LI Cannabis Tours

By Chris Casacchia, Staff Writer
March 24, 2023 

When New York regulators announced plans to double recreational marijuana retail licenses to 300 for social equity applicants, local cannabis operators and other industry advocates applauded the news.

But behind the scenes, concerns were mounting over the challenge of finding affordable cannabis real estate across large parts of the state because of zoning and commercial restrictions.

About half of New York’s 1,520 municipalities have opted out of adult-use retail, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, a public policy think tank based in Albany.

Densely populated Long Island, just east of New York City, is a prime example.

The license expansion implemented by the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has exacerbated a mad scramble to find zoned properties in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which together are generally referred to as Long Island.

“The opt-out issue is really more prevalent in Long Island as opposed to anywhere else in New York,” said David Feder, a cannabis attorney in the state who represents Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) social equity applicants and other license hopefuls.

“It’s a major issue for not only the CAURD licensees who have been granted this preliminary approval because there’s limited locations to find, but it creates an even more challenging issue for the next round of licensees.”

According to the Rockefeller Institute, only 11 of 111 jurisdictions on Long Island are effectively open for retail cannabis business, or about 10%, underscoring the difficulties marijuana entrepreneurs face in New York’s potential billion-dollar marijuana market.

Nearly 3 million people live in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which are among the state’s most populated.

In Nassau County, only five of 69 municipalities have opted in, or roughly 7%, according to Rockefeller Institute data, a mix of proprietary research, public documents and media reports.

They include Kings Point, Mill Neck, Oyster Bay Cove, Plandome and Saddle Rock.

In Suffolk County, 11 of 42 municipalities have opted in for recreational sales and consumption, or about a quarter of those eligible.

Of those in Suffolk, five have “no or limited” commercial properties available, according to Rockefeller Institute research.

“Finding an actual appropriate spot is really hard given all these zoning issues,” said New York cannabis attorney David Holland, who represents some CAURD clients looking for retail locations on Long Island.

Retail opt-outs are one of the reasons only five licensed dispensaries in New York are operational nearly three months after the state’s Dec. 29 launch of recreational sales.

Three of them are located in Manhattan.

A different approach

Municipal opt-outs are all too common in the cannabis industry, perhaps no more so than in California, where nearly two-thirds of cities and counties still prohibit retail operations more than five years after the state launched adult-use sales.

These cannabis deserts are one of the primary reasons that marijuana sales declined in 2022 in the world’s largest regulated marketplace.

But other markets, most notably Rhode Island, have taken a different approach, leaving opt-outs and opt-ins to the will of the voters.

When the nation’s smallest state by landmass kicked off adult-use sales Dec. 1, 33 of the state’s 39 municipalities had opted in, or nearly 85%. That’s believed to be the highest percentage of any market launch.

When New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) was enacted in March 2021, it gave cities, towns and villages until Dec. 31, 2021, to opt out of adult-use sales and consumption areas.

Most did, though they can opt back in through a voter referendum or legislation.

Municipalities are prohibited from opting out of cannabis processing, cultivation, distribution and delivery.

Residents last year in the small town of Tusten near the Pennsylvania border garnered enough signatures for a ballot referendum in November after its board opted out in late 2021.

Voters overturned both opt-outs – 54% opposed consumption-area bans and nearly 60% opposed retail bans.

“It was the power of the voters,” Holland said.

“It’s a little bit troublesome when you look at Long Island. There were not strong referendum movements out there.”

More barriers to entry

As in other states, New York regulators have proposed distance barriers between marijuana stores and other property types, including schools and places of worship.

According to insiders, a few location restrictions are causing big challenges for retail operators around New York City and particularly in Long Island, which has now been allotted 40 stores.

Among them:

  • Prohibiting retailers on the same road or within 500 feet of a “community facility,” an ambiguous term, critics tell MJBizDaily.
  • A 1,000-foot buffer between stores in municipalities with more than 20,000 residents.
  • A 2,000-foot buffer between shops in municipalities with fewer than 20,000 residents.

“A lot of these Long Island towns are all community centers,” contends Lauren Rudick, managing principal of New York City-based Rudick Law Group, which is representing several CAURD licensees and other applicants in the region.

Long odds in Long Beach?

In late December 2021, the city of Long Beach in Nassau County opted out of adult-use retail and consumption areas.

On paper, the oceanfront community of 35,000 seems like an ideal market for recreational cannabis sales.

The city can use a tax revenue boost after struggling financially for years, including two recent settlements with developers that will set it back about $250 million, according to media reports.

Its five City Council members are all backed by Democratic voters, who outnumber Republicans threefold in the jurisdiction.

And the beach town is a destination for block and sunset parties as well as its lively bar scene.

“I feel like it’s a real big miss,” said Beryl Solomon, a Long Beach resident and adult-use marijuana advocate.

Cannabis Crack Down NYC

Illegal Cannabis Sales in NYC - LI Cannabis Tours

Following raids on marijuana shops, some question emergency enforcement rules

Police Cracking Down on Illegal Marijuana Shops in NYC - LI Cannabis Tours
  • Published: Dec. 21, 2022, 7:30 a.m.

By  Sean Teehan |

When a woman breezed into Manhattan CBD shop Popped NYC on Dec. 7, co-owner Evan Forsch said he didn’t initially notice the four police officers flanking her.

She identified herself as an official with New York’s Office of Cannabis Management, and said the group was there to search the store. Officers patted Forsch down for weapons, told him to put his phone where they could see it, and started ruffling around the shop’s inventory.

“I didn’t realize it at first, but they were bagging things up,” Forsch said.

By the time his wife and co-owner, Lauren Forsch, arrived, nine law enforcement officers wearing bulletproof vests were searching the premises, and told the couple that Popped NYC was on a list of stores allegedly selling unlicensed cannabis. And because Popped NYC holds a hemp license, state officials may conduct a search without a warrant.

Lauren and Evan Forsch told NY Cannabis Insider that they were selling some weed products without a license, and that officials confiscated those products, in addition to hemp flower (they declined to specify what products were confiscated, or the total value).

However, they said the enforcement blindsided them, as the city and state have been tolerating storefronts openly selling weed in NYC for more than a year.

The OCM conducted a number of raids on shops allegedly selling illicit weed since the Cannabis Control Board unanimously approved emergency enforcement regulations on Nov. 21 with no discussion. That was the same meeting during which the board also approved the state’s first cannabis retail licenses.

And while cannabis industry players across the board agree shutting down grey market operations – many of which are selling products containing harmful contaminants – is critical to building a legal market, some wonder why the board voted on enforcement regulations in such a low-key way, and whether businesses that hold hemp licenses are being targeted for raids.

“It’s alarming to me that there was such little fanfare made over the emergency rules,” said Paula Collins, an attorney who represents the Forschs and other cannabis businesses. “What is alarming to me also, is that it’s haphazard … what puts you on a list, and what keeps you safe? I wish we knew.”

Clamping down

OCM spokesperson Freeman Klopott told NY Cannabis Insider that the agency is indeed working with law enforcement and taking action to tamp down illegal weed sales.

“From Buffalo to New York City, the Office of Cannabis Management and law enforcement agencies have worked together to stop illegal activity throughout the State,” Klopott said in an email.

“These efforts have included the seizure of products, the issuance of cease and desist letters, and removal of trucks used for the illicit sale of cannabis, and we will continue to enforce the law to end their operations.”

Klopott declined to specify how many stores have been raided, the amount of product officials have confiscated or whether business owners who were raided are still eligible for cannabis business licenses.

OCM’s enforcement codes seem pretty run-of-the-mill for a state regulatory agency, said Jason Klimek, an attorney for law firm Barclay Damon, where he co-leads the cannabis team. Enforcement is imperative to create a safe and legal cannabis market, he said, because it can help prevent bad actors from selling products made with toxic additives to unsuspecting customers.

“You would expect that the regulatory agency … would be able to come in, they would be able to investigate, and they would be able to enforce,” Klimek said.

Cannabis Crackdown in NYC – Fox 5 Video

Emergency measures

Most regulations that state agencies in New York impose have to go through a 60-day comment period before a bureau like OCM can enforce them, but emergency regulations – like those approved by the CCB last month – are temporary measures (effective for 90 days) that are immediately active.

The emergency enforcement rules give the OCM the right to investigate licensed and unlicensed businesses that officials believe are selling weed illegally. The rules outline what evidence OCM can compel investigation targets to produce, possible penalties for different categories of offenses, and what recourse business owners have in disputing charges.

Under the enforcement rules, anyone who submits a license application submits to inspections, which may be carried out by “duly authorized representatives of the Office, by any peace officer acting pursuant to their special duties, or by a police officer.”

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Businesses in violation of OCM rules could face one or more civil penalties including fees or fines, suspension, revocation of a license, seizure or quarantine of product, and referral to state or local, civil or criminal investigative or enforcement entities.

Even though most of the enforcement rules seem reasonable to Klimek, there are a few things that caught his eye about the regulations and how CCB approved them.

For example: a section that lists reasons for which OCM could take action against a licensed business includes “the financial management of the licensee, including the financial solvency status of the licensee.”

That’s jarring to Klimek, because legal weed businesses have to fulfill a slate of regulatory rules and pay taxes while competing with unregulated businesses that don’t have to abide by either of those requirements – a situation that could easily lead to periods of insolvency. Additionally, it’s likely that businesses in a newly legalized industry will make errors.

“It is concerning, because even out west we’re seeing now that a lot of these farms and licensees go out of business because the markets aren’t conducive to them continuing to operate,” Klimek said. “Could something look negligent, but was completely unintentional or maybe unknown to the farmer? Does that lay the groundwork for revocation?”

Klimek also noted that the CCB discussed some regulatory packages – like the proposed rules on packaging and marketing – pretty thoroughly, but the board seemed to slide in the enforcement regulations with as little discussion as possible.


Lauren Forsch, co-owner of Popped NYC, doesn’t contest that her store was selling weed without a license. But she said the practice seemed more or less acceptable – competing stores that were openly selling weed were left alone for months.

“I can’t say that we were targeted unfairly … we want to cooperate,” she said. “We just didn’t want to get left out, seeing people with more resources than us thriving while we’re struggling.”

The store previously received a cease and desist order from OCM, but Forsch said they had thought the letter was fake. When she made a records request for businesses to whom OCM issued cease and desist letters, Popped NYC was not on the list, she said. Additionally, she was aware that an online scammer had created a website that appeared to offer online shopping for Popped NYC, but really just took the credit card information of victims who believed they were paying for weed for pickup at the store.

The raid quashed any doubt that OCM was watching Popped NYC, and both Lauren and Evan Forsch say they’re no longer selling illegal products, and that they plan to repurpose some of the store’s space as an incubator for early-stage cannabis businesses. However, it’s unclear whether the raid will prevent them from getting a dispensary license when they apply.

In Collins’ opinion, OCM should start issuing transitional licenses to businesses that have sold weed illegally, but want to comply with regulations and operate a licensed enterprise.

Dina Browner, a California-based weed entrepreneur whose West Hollywood medical dispensary was raided by federal agents multiple times, said that rather than taking the “whack-a-mole” approach of raiding unlicensed weed vendors, authorities should focus on landlords.

“If they keep enforcing by just going in and taking people’s product, they’re just going to open somewhere else; what they really need to do is have it so that if the landlord is caught renting space to these businesses, they can lose their buildings,” Browner said. “That’s what they did in California, and that’s what stopped it.”

In any event, the fact that the Forsch’s reported that OCM and law enforcement officials who raided Popped NYC were civil and polite is an improvement from federal authorities who raided her store at gunpoint, Browner said.

“Federal raids are a whole different animal from local enforcement,” said Browner, who added that federal agents seemed to destroy as much property as possible each of the three times they raided her store.

Marijuana Legalized

NYS Legalizes Marijuana - LI Cannabis Tours

Recreational Marijuana Is Now Legal in New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana on Wednesday, making New York the 16th state to do so. Cuomo signed the bill a day after it passed in the State Legislature. Parts of the law went into effect immediately, as the New York Times explains:

Individuals are now allowed to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational purposes or 24 grams of concentrated forms of the drug, such as oils.

By Matt StiebChas Danner, and Margaret Hartmann

Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse at Vireo Health’s medical marijuana cultivation facility in Johnstown, New York. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New Yorkers are permitted to smoke cannabis in public wherever smoking tobacco is allowed, though localities and a new state agency could create regulations to more strictly control smoking cannabis in public. Smoking cannabis, however, is not permitted in schools, workplaces or inside a car.

Other changes will go into effect in the coming months when officials create the regulatory framework that will govern every aspect of a brand new, highly regulated market.

The long-awaited legislation legalizes recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over. In addition to permitting the possession of up to three ounces for personal use, it allows adults to grow three mature and three immature plants at a time, and legalizes the sale of weed with a 13 percent sales tax — which the state expects will raise $350 million in tax revenue every year, in addition to providing some 60,000 jobs. New York residents will be able to smoke weed in public wherever cigarette smoking is allowed.

Crucially, the legislation also expunges the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana-related offenses. “My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Liz Krueger, said in a press release.

Of the sales tax revenue, 9 percent will go to the state — of which 40 percent will go to fund education, 40 percent will go to support communities of color that have suffered the most from the war on drugs, and 20 percent will go to fund anti-addiction efforts. The other 4 percent of the sales tax will go to local governments. Though cities, towns, and villages will be able to opt out of allowing weed stores in their communities, those that elect to allow them will be entitled to 75 percent of the local share of the sales tax, with the remaining 25 percent going to the county. Applications for licenses to operate marijuana-related businesses run by women and people of color will be prioritized under the new law.

The law will also allow those who have sold marijuana illegally in the past to have a chance to gain a legal sales license, while limiting the permits for large multi-state marijuana companies already operating medical dispensaries in New York to four additional stores, two of which must be in underserved communities.

“This is a historic day in New York, one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” Cuomo said in a statement.

New York Reaches a Deal to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Recreational Marijuana-Long Island New York

Luis Ferré-Sadurní

By Luis Ferré-Sadurní

March 25, 2021


New York State officials finalized a deal on Thursday to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, paving the way for a potential $4.2 billion industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs and become one of the largest markets in the country.

Following several failed attempts, lawmakers in Albany struck an agreement with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, a move that officials hope will help end years of racially disproportionate policing that saw Black and Hispanic people arrested on low-level marijuana charges far more frequently than white people.

The deal would allow delivery of the drug and permit club-like lounges or “consumption sites” where marijuana, but not alcohol, could be consumed, according to details obtained by The New York Times. It would also allow a person to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home, indoors or outdoors, for personal use.

If approved, the first sales of legal marijuana are likely more than a year away: Officials must first face the daunting task of writing the complex rules that will control a highly regulated market, from the regulation of wholesalers and dispensaries, to the allocation of cultivating and retail licenses, to the creation of new taxes and a five-member control board that would oversee the industry.

Cuomo Caves On Marijuana Homegrow And Equity Funding, Top New York Senator Signals

Marijuana Legalization in Long Island New York

Marijuana Legalization in Long Island NY

March 19, 2021

By Kyle Jaeger

A top New York senator is signaling that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has conceded to lawmakers amid ongoing marijuana legalization negotiations on at least two key provisions of proposed legislation that concern home cultivation and social equity funding. The comments come as yet another new poll shows that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support ending cannabis prohibition.

While Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Liz Krueger (D) didn’t explicitly confirm what kind of language was agreed upon, she said in the new radio interview that she’s “extremely pleased with the agreement that we have come to” with the governor when it comes to giving adults a home grow option and how to allocate cannabis tax revenue for social equity purposes.

Her bill—the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA)—would let people grow a limited number of plants for personal use, whereas Cuomo’s reform plan, which he included in his annual budget request, would continue to criminalize people for cultivating their own cannabis. Advocates also prefer the legislature’s approach to social equity funding, which they believe will lead to a steady and ongoing stream of support for communities most impacted by the war on drugs.

Beyond those provisions, Krueger told WCNY radio in the interview that was taped on Wednesday and released Thursday that “700 issues have been resolved, and there’s one or two left, mostly relating to the issues of penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana and how to identify them.”

The legislature has also made clear that, despite the governor’s prior longstanding push to pass legalization through the budget, the issue will be handled as a standalone bill outside of that process. The senator said that while as such lawmakers  will not face an April 1 deadline as is the case with the spending legislation, there’s still an urgency to “get it done” sooner rather than later.

“Since I’ve never gotten this close to the deadline before, I’m feeling that there is impetus to get this done as quickly as possible, and I am prepared to do everything in my power to close this out, get this bill to both floors and get it signed by the governor,” she said.

Details of the final legislation might be pending, but polling shows that New Yorkers are ready for cannabis reform. A survey released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday found that 64 percent of New York voters support allowing people to legally possess cannabis for personal use.

There’s been speculation that the growing number of sexual harassment allegations against the governor—in addition to controversy over the state’s handling of nursing home COVID-19 death data—would leave him with less political clout to negotiate on behalf of his proposal over that of the lawmakers.

Krueger said that “you can’t ignore the fact that there was an interest in getting the marijuana bill done” on the governor’s end as these allegations were raised. “That seemed to pop up at around the same time.” However, she caveated, “pick a day and another shoe was dropping for the Cuomo administration.”

Originally, Cuomo personally reached out to legislators about advancing the policy change, but the senator said negotiations have since been handled by senior staff in the administration and legislature.

“We have watched as states far, far more red and conservative than our own have moved down the road into legalization, and we just feel like we’ve talked to everyone in the state of New York,” Krueger said. “Everyone has watched, everybody’s waiting. We have been working our hardest to get a balanced, rational bill out there. We’ve done so—let’s just get it done.”

Another part of the conversation concerned hemp regulations. The WCNY reporter asked about about current restrictions on the sale of hemp flower and whether those would be removed under her marijuana legislation. The senator said she believes they will—but the measure also gives some authority to regulators on implementation decisions and so it’s not clearly exactly what the rules will end up being.

Cannabis policy has been a hot topic in New York in recent days, with multiple lawmakers—as well as Cuomo—expressing optimism that a deal will be reached to reconcile their competing legalization proposals.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said this week that while talks had “reached a little bit of an impasse” over a provision related to impaired driving, she’s feel encouraged that “it will be resolved sooner than later.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) similarly said that he thinks “the executive is moving closer to where” the sponsors of the MRTA are.

Cuomo said on Monday that the sides are “very close” to reaching a deal. “We’ve tried to do that for the past three years, we have to get it done this year.”

Public defender and activist Eli Northrup said on Monday that he’s heard from sources that Cuomo is pushing to have the legislation make it so police could continue to justify stops and searches based on the odor of cannabis alone, regardless of its legalization. Advocates strongly oppose that policy.

On Tuesday morning, however, Scott Hechinger, a senior attorney with the Brooklyn Defender Services, said signals indicate that the pushback to that proposal was being felt by negotiations working on the cannabis legislation.

A Siena College survey released on Monday found that 59 percent of residents support adult-use legalization, compared to 33 percent who are opposed.

“We’ve been working on a marijuana bill. I’ve had a number of conversations with members,” the governor said last week. “We’ve been making good progress.”

Krueger also said recently that lawmakers were “working hard on a three-way agreed upon bill that could pass the legislature before we get to the budget.” She added: “I feel like we are 95 percent there. We have taken some big steps towards getting this done.”

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), the chamber’s sponsor of MRTA, said last week that talks “are really good and really fruitful and I’m really encouraged.” In fact, “I’ve never felt this encouraged before.” That’s despite her saying just days earlier that talks with the governor’s office over the legalization legislation had become heated to the point of screaming.

A state budget spokesperson said that the “administration is working with all parties to pass a comprehensive regulatory structure for adult-use cannabis that prioritizes social equity, social justice, economic development, and the public health and safety of all New Yorkers.”

Cuomo proposed amendments to his legislation last month that he hoped would address certain concerns from lawmakers and advocates. The changes primarily concern that issues such as social equity funding and criminal penalties for underage marijuana possession.

Another factor working against Cuomo is that Democrats now have supermajority control over the legislature, which could empower them to override a potential veto if they were to pass the MRTA against the governor’s wishes.

New York lawmakers last month held the first public hearing of the year on proposals to legalize cannabis, specifically focusing on budget implications.

Legislators heard testimony during the joint session from two pro-legalization industry representatives and one opponent. Despite their ideological differences when it comes to legalization in general, all three panelists were critical of Cuomo’s reform proposal. The two reform advocates said they would prefer to advance the MRTA over his legislation.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D)—who would become governor is Cuomo were to resign or be impeached—told Marijuana Moment in a January interview that there would be room for revisions to the current governor’s plan, stating that “much of it is going to be negotiated with the legislature, and all these details can be resolved with their input as well.”

Cuomo said that the changes in his bill reflect “the conversations we’ve had, but I’m hopeful that we can come to an agreement and we can get it done. He added that he believes, “because I’ve seen this movie before, “if we don’t get it done by April 1, we won’t get it done.”

This is the third year in a row that Cuomo has included a legalization proposal in his budget plan. The last two times, negotiations with the legislature stalled amid disagreements over certain components such as the tax structure for the market and funding for social equity programs.

Regardless of which direction the legislature ultimately goes on this issue, there’s growing recognition in the state that legalization is an inevitability.

The top Republican in the New York Assembly said in December that he expects the legislature to legalize cannabis this session.

Stewart-Cousins said in November that she also anticipates that the reform will advance in 2021, though she noted that lawmakers will still have to decide on how tax revenue from marijuana sales is distributed.

Cuomo also said that month that the “pressure will be on” to legalize cannabis in the state and lawmakers will approve it “this year” to boost the economy amid the health crisis.

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.”

Cuomo Moves to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in New York Within Months

LI cannabis tours

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York outlined his 2019 agenda, which included a push to legalize recreational marijuana and a call to address injustices that have “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.”

Credit – Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

By Vivian Wang -Dec. 17, 2018

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he would push to legalize recreational marijuana next year, a move that could generate more than $1.7 billion in sales annually and put New York in line with several neighboring states.

The highly anticipated proposal came in a speech in Manhattan on Monday, in which the governor outlined his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term. Mr. Cuomo framed the speech as a reflection on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt — the former president who was once a New York governor himself — would do today, mixing sweeping rhetoric about American ideals with grim warnings about the Trump administration.

The speech, which seemed delivered with a national audience in mind, could prolong slow-burning speculation about Mr. Cuomo’s presidential ambitions. It also showed, in striking detail, the governor’s leftward evolution in his eight years in office, from a business-friendly centrist who considered marijuana a “gateway drug,” to a self-described progressive championing recreational marijuana, taxes on the rich and a ban on corporate political donations.

“The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else,” Mr. Cuomo said before introducing the cannabis proposal, describing the injustice that had “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.

“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” he added.

Ten other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, spending the new tax revenue on a range of initiatives, including schools and transportation.

The idea is expected to win support in Albany, where Democrats captured the State Senate in November. Members of the Assembly, which is dominated by New York City Democrats, have supported such a measure as well.

After November, that excuse vanishes. Mr. Cuomo said so, too: “There are no more excuses, my friends. Now is the time to stand up and lead, and do what you’ve said you were going to do all those years.”

Compared to the other proposals, the marijuana idea received just a passing mention, despite the attention it has captured among policy wonks and average New Yorkers alike. Mr. Cuomo did not describe how he would use the tax revenue that legalization could generate, or offer details about how he would regulate a drug that he had previously made clear he considered dangerous.

He for years rejected allowing even medical marijuana, declaring that its dangers overshadowed its benefits. He continued to oppose it into 2013, before approving a highly limited pilot program in 2014.

After complaints from advocates, the state eased some of those restrictions in 2016. But Mr. Cuomo remained wary, telling reporters as recently as last year that he considered marijuana a “gateway drug.”

It was not until this year that Mr. Cuomo warmed to the idea, saying that the “facts have changed” around the drug and acknowledging its legalization in nearby states: Massachusetts in 2016 and New Jersey now moving to do the same. The governor’s primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, made legalization a central plank of her campaign.

The clearest indication of what legalization might look like in New York may be found in a report issued in July by the state Department of Health, which Mr. Cuomo had empowered to study the issue. The commission, which the governor convened in January, concluded that the benefits of taxing and regulating the drug outweighed any negative effects.

Legalization could bring in between $248 million and $677 million in new tax revenue in its first year, the report said. In addition, it could also ease the opioid crisis and mitigate racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

A Quinnipiac University poll in May showed that 63 percent of New Yorker’s favored legalizing marijuana.

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