Recreational cannabis proponents hope NYC forum drives action

ALBANY — Supporters of legalized adult use of cannabis products in New York are hoping a summit of regional governors on Thursday will help advance legislative efforts that fell short this year.

The meeting in New York City, which included Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the governors of Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey, is designed to craft regional solutions to the public health, safety and regulatory issues presented by the legalization of cannabis. The governors are also trying to strike unified policies on vaping.

“Today’s summit … is happening not a moment too soon,” Drug Policy Alliance state Deputy Director Melissa Moore said in a statement.

“We are hopeful the outcome will help to catalyze responsible legalization in New York, allowing our state to serve as a model for comprehensive marijuana reform across the greater region,” Moore said. “The time to act is now and New York has the opportunity to show the country what equitable and just legalization looks like.”

Cuomo advanced a plan to legalize cannabis in the state budget this year, but the proposal fell out during negotiations with Democratic state lawmakers, who failed to pass legalization as a standalone measure before the legislative session ended this summer. The governor has said he will advance the issue again in the budget that will be unveiled in January.

But the renewed push is not being uniformly welcomed, as the Medical Society of the State of New York and the State Association of County Health Officials remain opposed to legalization of adult-use cannabis. They maintain that the health and public safety risks associated with cannabis are too high to promote usage with legalization.

A state study released last year found that the benefits associated with legalization outweighed the consequences, which prompted Cuomo to push for adult-use of cannabis.

Thursday’s meeting, based on the announcement from the governor’s office, produced a broad framework for legalization. The announcement did not include the resolution of issues that hindered New York’s legislative effort, such as the use of new state revenues. – 518.454.5427 – @poozer87

By David Lombardo