New York Fast-Forwarding Down The Road To Legal Weed

Photo Credit: Sean Gallup

Is New York state moving to blaze it up already?

You might think so, given some comments on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Speaking at a subway-related press conference, Cuomo said that given the legalization of marijuana by Massachusetts and its potential legalization in New Jersey, “for all intents and purposes, it is going to be here anyway,” the New York Post reported.

This, of course, came right on the heels of comments by Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s Democratic primary rival, who earlier last week said that if she’s elected governor, she’ll look to legalize weed in a move toward racial justice.

Cuomo said it was no longer a matter of weed being legal or illegal. It’s now a question of whether New York state should legalize because other states close to its borders have already done so.

Certainly a different argument.

Cuomo earlier this year appointed a commission to look at the pros and cons of legalizing weed for recreational purposes. But Nixon’s comments seem to have lit a fire under Cuomo, who on Thursday said that the situation with marijuana had “dramatically changed.”

That was quick.

Right off the bat, it was easy to believe already that New York state would move toward legalizing weed for recreational purposes. We’ve already legalized medical marijuana, and had expanded the palate of conditions for which it can be prescribed.

New York City had already decriminalized possession of 25 grams of weed or less. You’ll get a ticket, but won’t get arrested, if you’re found holding that much.

And, yes, Massachusetts has legalized. New Jersey will give it a serious look as well; new Gov. Phil Murphy ran on legalization as part of his platform. Weed is legal in Washington, D.C., Oregon, Colorado, California and other states.

Add to that that New York had already formed that commission, and you can see where all this was likely headed. If we get there sooner, New York heads will have Nixon to thank, whether she’s governor or not.

But is legalizing the right move just because everybody else is doing it? What works in other states might not work here.

And getting it through the Legislature might not be an easy lift. Generally liberal voters in New York City may not have a problem with legal weed, but upstate types can be more conservative. It will be interesting to see what their Albany representatives do.

And a study is only going to tell us so much, right? How are we really going to know how the program is going to work unless we just dive right in and light it up? That’s the only true way to find out. Right?

And, you know, there’s an awful lot of money to be made from weed sales. Colorado has banked more than half a billion dollars in taxes from weed sales since marijuana was legalized a couple of years ago.

New York would be scooping up money from weed just like we have from cigarettes, alcohol, casino gambling and other “sin” activities, even with ever-increasing taxes. Why should other states get that money. Why should New Jersey have all the fun? We already lose enough business to them and their tax-free shopping.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of the tax revenue will actually go where we need it, but at least the money will be there, right? Along with all that Lotto money. All that casino money that was supposed to solve all our problems.

And what about all the other questions that need to be answered, questions about whether weed is a gateway drug that could lead users to harder drugs. And questions about whether we should be legalizing weed in the midst of an epic opioid and heroin crisis. Are we even going to ask these questions now?

Or are we going straight to “smoke ’em if you got ’em”?