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Is New York on a Path to Legalizing Recreational Marijuana?

New York is one of the most liberal states in America, and yet it's remained relatively behind the times when it comes to marijuana. But could that soon be coming to an end?

The Brooklyn Law School recently held an event to discuss the possibility of New York state legalizing marijuana in the near-future. One of the guests at the event was State Senator Liz Krueger, who argued that with several other states nearby legalizing marijuana (Maine and Massachusetts) and with more possibly on the way (New Jersey), it's time for New York to jump on board as well.

“We see our neighboring states legalize, we see the economics escaping us,” said Krueger, whose district 28 stretches along Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “You just see other states going down this road, and the world didn't end out in Colorado."

In June, Krueger introduced a bill to legalize marijuana throughout the state, but it's currently stuck in committee. Krueger's attempted to pass similar bills twice in the path, but both efforts died.

Despite New York's liberal reputation, the state's been rather conservative when it comes to marijuana laws. In 2016, the state launched a limited medical marijuana program that only allowed patients with cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease to participate. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo added chronic pain in March and on Saturday included PTSD to honor Veteran's Day. In addition, the state's medical marijuana law only allows non-smokable forms of cannabis to be used. 

The big roadblock to recreational marijuana in New York is Cuomo. The two-term governor has made it clear he opposes legalizing recreational marijuana while he's still in office. He's already declared his intent to run for a third-term next fall, and it's hard to believe anyone would be able to unseat him either in a primary or the general election.

But as Krueger points out, successful legalization efforts in nearby states may increase the pressure on Cuomo to change his mind. Particularly if New Jersey's able to legalize cannabis within the first 100 days of incoming Governor Phil Murphy's administration.

So it may be too early for New Yorkers to begin scouting out possible dispensary locations. But there's a pretty good chance in the not-too-distant future that a major push for recreational marijuana will begin.

(h/t The Cannabist)


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