NY marijuana: What to know about Cuomo’s 2020 plan to legalize pot, study cannabis

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Source: Ithaca Journal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewed push to legalize recreational marijuana in New York on Wednesday included a new state-run research center to study cannabis use risks.

The SUNY Global Cannabis Center for Science, Research and Education would focus on mounting questions about potential hazards of using marijuana and hemp-based CBD, the non-psychoactive element of cannabis, according to Cuomo’s plan.

“The federal government failed Americans with opioids, and we cannot allow that to happen with cannabinoids,” Cuomo said in the plan released during Wednesday’s State of the State address.

“Until now, the cannabinoid industry has gone unregulated and unchecked, and there is a dearth of independent research on the science, the safety risks, and the dangers/benefits associated with its potential use,” he added.

The effort comes after Cuomo’s bid to legalize cannabis use for adults failed last year amid opposition from doctors, law enforcement and educators.

What's new in 2020 for legalizing marijuana in New York?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Albany, N.Y.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Albany, N.Y. (Photo: Hans Pennink, AP)

Much of Cuomo’s marijuana plan this year seemingly mirrored his legislation in 2019, including the creation of a new state agency to oversee recreational pot, medical marijuana and hemp.

The proposal would limit recreational pot sales to over age 21 and promote social equity in the cannabis industry through various programs. It also is expected to feature a regional approach to legalizing recreational marijuana in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Cuomo said.

In announcing the plan, Cuomo also touted New York’s prior achievement when lawmakers in June decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot and expunged prior convictions.

The coming political battle over Cuomo's plan is expected to touch on everything from how to tax legal weed to testing and marketing products. The plan continued to estimate collecting $300 million in marijuana tax revenue when fully implemented.

Strong reaction to New York's marijuana proposal

Protesters urging legislators to pass Marijuana legislation holds a signs against the senate lobby doors at the state Capitol Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Protesters urging legislators to pass Marijuana legislation holds a signs against the senate lobby doors at the state Capitol Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink) (Photo: Hans Pennink, AP)

Yet pot opposition led by doctors, educators and law enforcement has suggested the renewed push failed to address growing concerns about legal weed fueling drugged driving and youth use, as well as vaping-related illnesses linked to marijuana.

“We call on the governor to listen to public health and safety associations across the state, including the medical society and county health officials who, for the last year, have denounced the push for legalization,” said Kevin Sabet, president of anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Pro-marijuana groups praised many aspects of Cuomo's plan, such as creating small business incubators to promote diversity ownership.

"Decriminalization alone will never be enough to right the injustices of discriminatory marijuana enforcement," said Kassandra Frederique, of Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group.

"Smart regulation can support community wellbeing and safety while building a diverse, socially equitable industry that strengthens all parts of our state,” she added. 

What’s the SUNY Global Cannabis Center

The state Health Department said its lab results showed very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples that may have been leading to lung illnesses from vaping. It said these were some of the products it found with high levels of vitamin E.

The state Health Department said its lab results showed very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples that may have been leading to lung illnesses from vaping. It said these were some of the products it found with high levels of vitamin E. (Photo: New York state Health Department)

Cuomo described the new cannabis research center as a collaboration of the State University of New York system, other universities and expert partners.

The center will initially focus on three pillars: toxicity, bioavailability, and dosing mechanisms, the plan said.

“This emphasis will determine what is safe, what is effective, and what parameters define healthy and safe dosing,” the plan said.

“It will also reveal how these substances interact with prescription drugs, astonishingly, to date, this has not been done. If a state is to enact cannabis regulations, this area of drug interaction is of first order concern,” it added.

The plan also would create an open source database for drug interactions, accessible to anyone considering the use of cannabinoids.

Further details of the center, such as cost, are expected in the governor’s executive budget, which wasn’t immediately available Wednesday.

Pro-marijuana groups and cannabis companies have asserted legalizing and studying marijuana would reduce the health threats from illicit marijuana, including products linked to thousands of vaping-related illnesses across the country.

"The illegal market exposes New Yorkers to pesticides, additives and other potentially harmful contaminants – and must be ended by the creation of a well-regulated and inclusive legal cannabis industry," Michelle Bodner, a regional director for cannabis company Curaleaf, said Wednesday in a statement.

View All News »