Will Coronavirus Push New York to Legalize Weed?

New York's ongoing battle to legalize cannabis may reach a critical juncture in the face of the Coronavirus crisis.

The Coronavirus crisis, also known as COVID-19, is bringing the entire world to a halt. Schools and Universities across the United States are being canceled, shops and workplaces are closing, and food is flying off of the shelves.

In response to the crisis, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering accelerating the state budget to ensure legislative action doesn't also come to a standstill.

While Cuomo's decision comes at a time of international crisis, for some legislators, this rare moment of budgetary acceleration also presents an opportunity to finally enact cannabis legalization across the state.

For the past several years, Governor Cuomo has stated that he believes recreational weed indeed be legal in New York, citing the potential tax revenue that can be earned from legalizing the plant on top of the disproportionate amount of marijuana arrests which befall minority communities. In fact, Cuomo vowed to make marijuana legal in New York within the first 100 days of 2019.

Evidently, this hasn't yet occurred, as efforts to actualize those sentiments have often failed despite the fact that Cuomo even consulted the Department of Health on legalizing the plant, who concluded that the War on Weed "had not curbed marijuana use despite the commitment of significant law enforcement resources."

Within their report, the Department of Health found that legalization would enable "better control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity restrictions," while also generating millions in tax revenue to the state every year.

Now, it's looking like the state of New York may once again make a run for cannabis legalization amid the coronavirus crisis, as the state's budget will now be considered on an accelerated basis. For the second consecutive year, Governor Cuomo has included legalization in his budget proposal, and he's also mentioned that if legalization is to happen, it must be done through the budget.

As a result, lawmakers in new york have filed a new marijuana proposal that would allow for individuals aged 21 and older to purchase cannabis from licensed retailers and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

The world has been in a panic ever since the new Chinese coronavirus disease—which is now officially known as COVID-19—began stoking fears of a global pandemic in early 2020.

Whether the coronavirus panic encourages swift legislative action on cannabis or puts the issue on the budgetary backburner is yet to be seen, though we are expected to find out in the coming days.

Though Cuomo was asked recently if he wanted to continue pursuing cannabis legalization in the budget amid the ongoing corona crisis, to which he responded: "I want to do as much as we can do, the only caveat is if it has not been thought through, that's a different story."

Additionally, the governor insisted that the budget won't be "barebones," implying that he doesn't wish to allow the COVID-19 crisis to prevent his sustained efforts to push for legalization.

Whether the proposed pot bill will be up to Cuomo's liking is unknown at this point, though it's looking very possible that we'll see New York become the 12th state to legalize cannabis after Illinois. Cannabis legalization may be the silver lining amid the Coronavirus storm.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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