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Politics

Cuomo Calls for Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in New York

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for recreational use by adults, his third attempt in as many years to get the drug fully legalized in the state.

Cuomo, a Democrat, planned to announce his proposal Wednesday as part of his upcoming State of the State agenda for the year.

The proposal calls for the creation of a new Office of Cannabis Management that would oversee recreational use as well as existing medical use.

It also would offer licensing opportunities for those in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by law enforcement efforts against marijuana to become entrepreneurs in the new recreational market.

Cuomo's latest legalization proposal follows two unsuccessful attempts in 2019 and 2020 to fully legalize marijuana, which both fell short despite Democrats' 2018 win of both chambers of the Legislature.

In 2019, New York softened some criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and launched a process to automatically expunge the records of thousands of individuals convicted of low-level possession crimes.

Democrats won a veto-proof supermajority in November — and supporters are hoping legalization will gain momentum.

But Cuomo's proposal will still need buy-in from Democrats from swing suburban districts, who have long cited concerns that legalization would lead to more impaired driving and more children smoking pot.

The party's liberal wing criticized Cuomo's 2020 proposal for failing to set aside money specifically to lift up places that have suffered from mass incarceration and a legacy of disproportionate arrests for drug possession.

The governor had proposed to set aside marijuana tax revenue in a fund that could be used for everything from encouraging minorities to join the cannabis industry to public health campaigns.

Cuomo is hopeful his new proposal could bring in sorely needed revenue to the state.

But even supporters of legalization have stressed that New York won't see any revenue from marijuana legalization for years.

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