New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said on Thursday that he plans to visit at least three states that have legalized marijuana to learn from their experiences and incorporate components of their cannabis laws as New York moves ahead with plans to end prohibition.
The governor, who last month included legalization in his budget request for the second year in a row, said that while lawmakers often talk about their objectives for a legal market such as promoting social equity, “many of those goals haven’t been met.”
“I also want to make sure [legalization] is done correctly. You look at states that have legalized marijuana, many of them have generated more questions,” Cuomo said. “I’m going to visit Massachusetts, Illinois and California or Colorado, which are three states that have legalized it and have different versions.”
The governor said he and his team will meet with officials in those states and “discuss what they’ve done, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked.”
“Has the social equity piece worked? Has the law enforcement piece worked?” he asked, adding that information gathered on the tour will ensure that New York has “the best bill and the best system when we pass it, and I want to pass it by April 1.”
In the meantime, Cuomo said New York will continue to pursue a regionally coordinated cannabis legalization plan, working with the governments of neighboring states such as New Jersey and Connecticut to create a program that prevents residents from across state borders to obtain marijuana products that are taxed lower or have higher THC potency, for example.
He and several other Northeast governors met in December and agreed to a set of basic principles for what a legal marijuana market should look like.
“It’s regional coordination, but then if you look at what has happened in states that have done it—about 11 states have legalized marijuana—everybody talks about the goals,” he said. “We want a social equity component, we want to make sure it’s policed—they have all these goals. But many of the programs, once they’ve been implemented and they went back and looked, they didn’t meet those goals.”
“It’s like our political debate now is all about: I have a plan, I have a plan, I have a plan. Yeah everybody has a plan, but can you actually get it done and does it turn out the way you planned it, right?” he added. “That’s the big question and that’s where government usually gets into trouble. I want to make sure we learn from them.”
Cuomo said that now that nearby states have agreed to regionally coordinate their reform moves, “I now want to literally go to California, Illinois, Massachusetts [and] sit with them. What was your plan? How did it work out? What did you learn? What can we incorporate?”
The governor made a big push for legalization last year, but after months of negotiations with lawmakers, the legislature was unable to produce a passable bill prior to the end of the session. But he’s expressed optimism, including during his State of the State address last month, that 2020 will be the year that the reform will be accomplished.