While 63 percent of New Yorkers support legalizing marijuana, as reported to The New York Times, a Quinnipiac University study found that most people in the state would not try recreational weed if it were legal.
The poll results showed that 54 percent of the voters “definitely will not try” marijuana if it’s legalized. The results are curious at best considering New Yorkers consumed almost double the amount of pot that was consumed in the world's number one pot city, Karachi, Pakistan, where people consumed more than 41 tons of pot in 2017. Perhaps the respondents for the Quinnipiac study weren't quite forthcoming answering the survey questions because New Yorkers consumed more than 77 tons of ganja the same year.
New York is the second-largest marijuana consumption city world-wide, and with so many people already using marijuana in the state, it is likely that legalizing New York recreational weed will increase pot consumption and make weed more popular.
New York Governor Aims to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2019
The state's Democratic governor, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, says that he wants to legalize recreational marijuana this year. Cuomo says that New York recreational weed could reach sales of $1.7 billion annually while generating between $248 million and $677 million in tax revenue for the state.
Cuomo also says that legalizing recreational marijuana would reduce racial discrimination in marijuana arrests after a report he commissioned from the New York Department of Health found that marijuana prohibition criminalizes minorities.
The state health department found that minorities are incarcerated at disproportionate rates for marijuana. The NYPD arrested African-Americans in Manhattan at 15 times the rate of Caucasians. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people in New York City, and Black people were arrested at eight times the rate of their Caucasian counterparts.
City Councilman Rafael Espinal also believes the tax revenue from recreational marijuana should be invested in communities most affected by the war on drugs. "This is the perfect opportunity to right a historic wrong," said Espinal. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also agrees and says that New York has a chance to affect change. "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a historic issue right for future New Yorkers.
The New York Department of Health concluded that the benefits of legal weed outweighed the risks and advised that the state legalize marijuana for adults 21 years of age and above. The health department also advised that any law legalizing marijuana in the state also expunge prior marijuana convictions.
Other uses for the pot revenue include fixing the state's subway system, addressing mental health, substance abuse programs, and investing in public education.
New York Decriminalized Marijuana
The state has already begun decriminalizing marijuana. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. no longer prosecutes low-level marijuana possession cases where under 10 bags of marijuana were found. The DA's office has also dismissed or sealed nearly 3,000 minor marijuana cases going back to 1978, with 79 percent of those cases being people of color. Manhattan had a 94 percent drop in marijuana prosecutions in the last quarter of 2018.
"Now it's time for New York State to legalize, regulate and expunge," said Vance, adding that several cities have successfully decriminalized marijuana. "Only our legislature can do justice for all 62 counties in New York State," he concluded.
The District Attorney in Brooklyn is also refraining from prosecuting minor marijuana crimes and expunged 28 minor marijuana convictions, a historic move. District Attorney Eric Gonzalez decreased the number of marijuana cases his office is prosecuting by 91 percent, reducing the number from 349 to 29.
Governor and Lawmakers Disagree
Cuomo and state legislators are not in agreement on just how to legalize New York recreational weed. The governor has proposed allowing cities over 100,000 to opt out of legalizing marijuana in their cities and his plan does not specifically earmark funds for investing in minority communities.
Crystal Peoples-Stokes is the Assembly Majority Leader and says that many changes need to happen before the Legislature and Cuomo come to an agreement. Peoples-Stokes says that they are only in about 50 percent agreement about the proposed bill and that she is in opposition to marijuana tax revenue going into a general fund for the governor and his administration to use as he chooses.
Cuomo hopes his proposal is approved by March 31, however, lawmakers think that the timeline is too ambitious considering the necessary changes. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that six weeks is not enough time to agree to a framework and cites getting it right over expedience.
Heastie was criticized by marijuana advocates for his comments and responded by advising activists that he was merely trying to get the law done right the first time.
"Being honest and saying six weeks may not be enough time to come up with regulations, deal with economic impact on communities and the criminal justice aspects, somehow gets reactions of outrage instead of understanding and acknowledgement of the commitment to get this done," he wrote.
Regardless of exactly how lawmakers agree to legalize New York recreational weed, it will happen once an agreement is made, and the state may be the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana.