In 1927, New York State banned cannabis outright, along with Idaho, Kansas, Montana and Nebraska that year. A decade later, in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act banned marijuana nationwide on a technicality: all cannabis sales were to be taxed, but the stamps used to pay the tax made it illegal to possess marijuana but not the stamps, which would very quickly earn anyone attempting to buy the tax stamps a visit from local authorities.
While the Marihuana Tax Act still allowed the medicinal use of cannabis under increasingly restrictive regulations, Congress did away with all medical marijuana, and any other marijuana use, with the Controlled Substances act of 1970, which prohibited the drug nationwide.
Back in New York, marijuana laws would shortly become the nation's toughest yet.
On May 8, 1973, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed a bill that increased penalties for the possession and sale of marijuana and other drugs following sweeping anxieties against issues raised by the counterculture movement of the 1960s. The new law, which could earn a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison for the sale of just two ounces and the possession of just four ounces of marijuana, gave New York State the most punitive drug laws in the country.
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In 2014, New York medical marijuana laws were up for an overhaul as state lawmakers passed a bill that gave the state's Department of Health 18 months to develop a medical marijuana program, making New York the 23rd state in the country to legalize the use of marijuana for the treatment of debilitating diseases and conditions.
Just last year, Governor Cuomo argued in his 2018 State of the State address for an investigation into the effects of recreational legalization. In its report, the Department of Health cited various benefits -- including economic, health and public safety benefits -- leading Cuomo to declare recreational legalization a top priority of the 2019 legislative session. Critics, however, accuse Cuomo of using marijuana for political capital and point to his recent abandonment of recreational-use marijuana following a tough budget battle that saw marijuana legalization swept under the rug of politics and bureaucracy.