Editor's Note: This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 6 to reflect statements from Cresco Labs' Charlie Bachtell and Drug Policy Alliance's Melissa Moore.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again calling for cannabis legalization this year, with plans to announce his proposal Jan. 6 as part of his upcoming State of the State agenda, according to the Independent Tribune.
“We applaud Gov. Cuomo for calling for the legalization of adult use cannabis in the State of New York," Charlie Bachtell, CEO and co-founder of multistate cannabis operator Cresco Labs, said in a public statement. "We support his equity-centric approach to legalization as it will have a transformational impact on the state’s constituents, creating opportunities for those impacted by the War on Drugs and ensuring that cannabis develops into a responsible and respectable industry in New York."
This is Cuomo’s third attempt in three years to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, the Independent Tribune reported. Last year, Cuomo included a legalization proposal in his state budget, but the plan was ultimately cut in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo’s latest proposal calls for the creation of an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the medical and adult-use cannabis programs in the state, according to the Independent Tribune, and it would offer licensing opportunities for applicants in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
“New York still has the opportunity to lead the country on cannabis legalization by establishing the most ambitious and progressive legalization program in the U.S. and implementing cannabis legalization from a social justice lens where other states have fallen short," said Melissa Moore, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance and member of Start SMART NY Coalition, in a public statement. "2021 is the right time for marijuana justice in New York and the budget period is a crucial time for advancing legalization, which can be an economic engine driving wealth and equity in marginalized communities and providing space for alternative economic systems—if we work intentionally."
Some lawmakers have criticized the fact that Cuomo’s proposal does not set aside funds to specifically support communities that have suffered from disproportionate cannabis arrests, the Independent Tribune reported. However, the governor’s plan does set aside tax revenue in a fund that is earmarked for encouraging minorities to participate in the industry and public health campaigns, among other efforts, according to the Independent Tribune.