New York moves much much much closer to cannabis legalization

Today New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office made a major announcement: the Governor has appointed a “working group” under the direction of Chief Counsel Alphonso David that will draft legalization legislation. The working group will consist of:

  • David Holtgrave, PhD, Dean, School of Public Health, University at Albany
  • R. Lorraine Collins, PhD, Associate Dean for Research, University at Buffalo
  • Jeff Reynolds, PhD, CEO, Family and Children’s Association of Long Island
  • Brendan Cox, former Albany Police Chief
  • Angela H. Hawken, PhD, Professor of Public Policy, NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management
  • Natasha Schüll, PhD, Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU Steinhardt
  • Tracie Gardner, Associate Director at the Legal Action Center
  • Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, MS, Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker
  • Budget Director Robert Mujica
  • Chief Diversity Officer for New York State Lourdes Zapata
  • Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan
  • Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez
  • Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole
  • Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul Karas
  • New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II
  • Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion
  • New York State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball
  • Empire State Development Corporation Commissioner Howard Zemsky

It is noteworthy that the Governor has stated that:

the workgroup will be tasked with engaging with the leadership of both the State Senate and the State Assembly, as well as bill sponsors of medical and regulated marijuana legislation (Senator Diane Savino, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Crystal Peoples Stokes), advocates, and academic experts with experience from other states including Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management, and Beau Kilmer, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation.

It is also highly significant that the working group consists of no present members of the New York City government, possibly reflecting the arch-rivalry between Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. You’d think that the working group would include a representative of the government largest metropolitan area in the United States (and Canada) but no…. That could be already be a problem for implementation.

I recently wrote an analysis of the July 13 Department of Health report that, without expressly recommending legalization, recommended legalization. In my article I noted that the report is just a report to the Governor and not a statement of the Governor’s position, although it is highly unlikely – if not impossible – that the Governor did not review the report before it’s release. Now it’s the Governor’s position.

There’s a good chance there will be a legalization statute in New York by the end of June.
Assume an implementation date by June 30, 2020, if not January 2020.

The next question is whether the working group will be transparent. The Department of Health was prepared and issued in completely secrecy: to my knowledge there were no public hearings. The membership of the group that prepared the report has still not been disclosed.

It’s time to demand hearings that are open to the public at which public testimony is permitted.


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